• Becci Pigeon

How animal donation schemes hurt animals AND humans

Updated: Jan 20

Buying charitable gifts for people is a great way to celebrate the true spirit of the holidays, but not all charitable gifts are equal. Some of them, like live animal donation programs, not only hurt animals but the humans they are intended to benefit as well.

Plant-based hunger relief organisation A Well Fed World has put together an excellent page that delves into the issue of live animal gifts and the many reasons that they are not only cruel to animals but humans too.

For example, there is the matter of lactose intolerance, which is actually the default state for humans worldwide. (Check out our blog post You're Not Lactose Intolerant; You're Just Not a Baby Cow!) 90% of people of Asian and African descent cannot properly digest cow's milk, but it is to these areas that charity animal programs are heavily targeted. The dairy industry is a powerful and influential one, however (related video). The supposedly simple gift of a cow has far-reaching consequences that we might not expect--for example, the organisation Heifer International is largely responsible for the mass industrialisation of dairy in Japan after World War II. This charity push of meat and dairy heavy western diets also contributes to the displacement of nutritional indigeous foods.

Another problem with these programs is that animal agriculture is inherently inefficient. Giving animals to people already struggling because they do not have enough food and clean water simply gives them the responsibility of more mouths to feed! While it is common for people to assume that farmed animals in these countries simply live off the land, this isn't the case at all: in fact, in response to criticisms about introducing more animal agriculture to areas already struggling with desertification and drought, some animal gifting organisations have instituted a 'zero-grazing' requirement--meaning that not only is the animal forced to live in confinement, the recipients of this supposed charity now must perform extra labour to provide the animal with precious food and water that they would otherwise consume themselves.

… each goat eats all the grass and shrubbery on two hectares of land a year. A goat destroys the fertility of land and [the value of] any milk or dung it may give is very little compared to the havoc it wreaks … within two years, the people who get goats have an even poorer lifestyle...There are village quarrels about community grazing; children are taken out of school to graze the goats; water becomes even scarcer … Two goats can reduce the amount of farmland available to local people and result in villages becoming deserted, while a cow will drink up to 90 liters of water every single day.“ --Maneka Gandhi, former Indian minister for social welfare and animal protection (source)

A Well-Fed World details several more reasons why live animal donation programs are harmful to everybody involved, so be sure to check out their page for more facts! (AWFW is are also a great resource for all sorts of well-sourced information about the impact of animal agriculture on world hunger and the destruction of our climate.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan organisations involved in hunger relief, and many of them offer the option of a charitable gift for the holidays! Here are just a few:

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