Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Oxfam & Heifer International Aren’t Christmas Present Worthy

Published on December 11, 2011 by   ·   14 Comments Social Buttons by Linksku - Share links onlinePin It

When your favorite celebrity asks you to “adopt” a goat from Heifer international as a Christmas gift for your loved ones, you are bound to think.. how sweet, right?   Think again.

(image above is of actual adopted animals who get to live out their lives happily at Farm Sanctuary)

Heifer International, MercyCorps, Oxfam and other nonprofits have programs that ship animals overseas to poor families in underdeveloped countries to use for meat and dairy products. This is a nearsighted attempt to solve a far more complex problem (world hunger) and poses several risks for the animals, the environment, and the people whom these programs purport to help.

Taking animals away from their mothers, shipping them thousands of miles to far off lands, and then subjugating them for dairy products and ultimately slaughtering them for food, flies in the face of my personal mission to lead by compassion. All animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways, whether they are on factory farms or used for personal sustenance. Cruel procedures such as dehorning and castration without painkillers, restrictive conditions, and extended suffering due to illness and injury are commonplace. If a family is struggling to provide for themselves, how can they ensure adequate conditions, nutrition and veterinary care for their animals? Providing another mouth to feed and care for seems to be the last thing one should be doing to fight world hunger.

Farm animals drink a lot of water and graze a lot of land — particularly cows, pigs and goats. These animals contribute to desertification, particularly when living in environments that are not natural for them, and environments at risk for desertification. Many of these recipient families already live in desert climates and have a hard enough time getting water and resources for themselves, much less their animals.

Residents in Asia and Africa, two of the continents targeted by Heifer and other organizations of its ilk, have the highest levels of lactose intolerance in the world — upwards of 90% of these populations are unable to properly digest milk. Sending dairy cows to areas with a mostly lactose intolerant population defeats the purpose of these organizations’ missions.

I find it particularly disturbing that many of these programs show images of happy children hugging and holding these creatures to lure people into making a sympathetic donation. These images fail to reflect the hard, cold reality that these animals are doomed for slaughter.

The following organizations are working to reduce human suffering through programs that are sustainable and animal friendly:

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Readers Comments (14)

  1. Thanks for mentioning Sustainable Harvest International! As the Founder and President, I appreciate your help spreading the word about our work. As a friend of animals and mostly vegetarian (except for certain seafood), I also appreciate the sentiment.

  2. Amy says:

    We got a thing in the mail the other week from one of these organizations,I was so horrified! Who would send a “gift” of 6 Piglets to some other country so people can eat them! So sick! And included in the envelope was a free Xmas card with farm animals on wearing santa hats,looking happy,it’s so grossly contradicting what that company really does! I’m so thankful for you putting a spotlight on these nasty organizations so other people will be aware!

  3. Vanilla Rose says:

    The other day, someone tried to tell me that they thought the goats sent to Africa were mostly used for milk. Not the boy goats, I said.

  4. Another humane and more sustainable alternative to Heifer is Feed More Interational, at

    It is all vegan. I love their opening statement:

    Feed More International (FMI) is our new gift-giving campaign that feeds people without harming animals.

    Instead of using a “gift-pig” as food from a group like Heifer International, your gift will save that pig by supporting “on-the-ground” animal-free hunger relief projects.

  5. Debbi D-W says:

    If you are going to rail against an organization, please at least get your facts right. Heifer does not ship animals overseas and hasn’t for decades. They help educate families in the care of native animals that can help address hunger. My daughter & I participated in a global passport educational week at Heifer Ranch where we simulated life in Mozambique. She came home more commited to vegetarianism and drammatically more aware of her consumerism in the U.S. I’m disappointed in your condemnation with incorrect information.

  6. Chloe Jo says:

    Debbi, Regardless if animals are shipped or not (though our sources say they ARE) – this is still a program that uses ANIMALS to “help” people, which doesn’t really help them in the long run. There ARE other, better ways. Use them.

  7. Veggie Ohio says:

    Although I appreciate this article and the excellent links to outstanding organizations, I would like to point out that there are many flaws to the above argument which simple research might help illuminate.

    Here is one example: Let’s talk about sending dairy cows to Africa. Heifer has introduced camels to a traditionally cow-herding communities in the horn of Africa. Although change is hard for anyone, the camels are an ideal fit for a community which has been devastated by climate change and can no longer sustain the water and grass consumption of cattle. These camels are farming help-mates, taking the women’s work of daily carrying firewood and water so that they can get education and start small businesses.

    I won’t continue to point out the misleading comments above, but I would challenge anyone who cares about humanitarian efforts to do lots of good solid research before supporting or slandering any organization.

    • Lu says:

      I would just like to say that the first thing I thought of when the idea of sending camels to Africa was mentioned was the problem of feral camels in Australia. They thought it would be a great idea to import camels, too, for transport, but once the camels were no longer needed they were abandoned to their own devices (goodbye, responsible husbandry) and got so far out of control in the outback that the Australians have to kill them en masse. Do some research on that: the camels are said to be destroying the ecosystems where they are overpopulating ( Sending nonnative animals to other people as commodities seems like a very risky idea for both animals and people as well as the environment. You always have to think about what’s going to happen when the animals are no longer “needed” or can’t be supported.

  8. April says:

    Okay, Veggie Ohio, I agree with you on one thing – Yes, let’s please encourage everyone to conduct their own research into these types of organizations. Then everyone will discover with certainty that this article just scratches the surface to this problem. It is not defamation by the way to state facts, which is what this piece did. Also, it would be such a lovely thought to think that these programs at least helped women around the globe somehow so they could “get education and start small businesses” but that is simply not the case. You list one instance of camels, however you do not acknowledge that it is the woman’s job to take care of the animals (even Heifer admits that most of their dairy operations are run by women) as well as their many children. In these parts of the world, there is no sex education or birth control, and women’s rights are practically non-existent. I love how you think throwing some cows into the mix will automatically and empower these women in remote areas of the globe and magically give them access to education and literacy. That is truly backwards thinking. Want to really help women? Support programs like,, & If anyone wants to read more about the downside of livestock gifts, please do google around more and find other independent sources which will back up everything that Chloe said. Some good sources are: (also lists some great orgs to donate to that actually do promote true self-sustenance)

    Thanks, again, Chloe, for bringing important issues into light and increasing the compassion quotient in the world! Peace and Happy Holidays, everyone!

  9. Jessica says:

    Wow, this is so on point! It is so important that you know exactly how your money is being used when you give back. So many organizations say they are “helping” issues, by hurting animals. It is simply unethical, so thank you for giving it more exposure, and referring some places, too! I like to donate to Farm Sanctuary and PCRM, and I will check out your recommendations as well.

  10. Promoting a meat-centered diet isn’t doing poor families or the environment any favors. Sigh, committed carnivores are so deluded…

  11. Lisa says:

    The most comprehensive look at this issue I’ve seen is provided by A Well-Fed World ( While as a vegan I wouldn’t think of supporting Heifer International or other organizations of its ilk, I didn’t realize just how devastating the effects of these programs can be until I saw Dawn Moncrief, AWFW’s founder, speak at Vegetarian Summerfest about 3 years back. Introducing “livestock” into an already dire situation causes even further demands on severely limited resources. The animals require lots of food and water. If the people receiving the animals don’t have enough of those themselves, adding another mouth to feed is cruel both to the recipients and to the animals. Well-meaning donors are actually setting them up for suffering and starvation.

  12. Zack says:

    Oh my goodness thank you.
    Other articles won’t suggest alternatives which always leaves a Nietzsche vibe of, “They’re doing it wrong. I don’t know how to fix it, but they’re doing it wrong.”

  13. Randy Traweek says:

    Please be aware the “preferable” alternatives may not be very “preferable.” Charity Navigator rates Sustainable Harvest two stars out of four for poor financials (not a lot of money actually going to the cause). They scored 68 out of 100. Food for Life isn’t even rated, so you have no idea how well their money is spent. Ditto Fruit Tree Foundation and A Well Fed World mentioned in the comments above. Is clearing rain forests to plant fruit trees perferable to animals? Trees for Life Intl. also only gets two stars, 89 for financial accountability (good) but only 68 for financial transparency (terrible). Less than 63% of your Women’s Bean Project donation dollars go to planting beans while an astonishingly horrible 24% goes to administrative expenses. Who is really benefiting, the alleged recipients or the organization? Farm Sanctuary rates better than the others, though only 72% goes to programs. But OMG, Farm Sanctuary does what this site is criticizing! Their website offers and adorable “Noel” (a goat), “Jane” (a pig), Agnes (a sheep) along with (I kid you not) “Dandypants” (a chicken). A cute bow tops each photo. Just because someone provides alternatives doesn’t mean they are good alternatives and I find it astounding that one of the alternatives does exactly what this site claims to abhor.

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