Advocate: Heifer Project International Breeds Animal Slavery
By Jack Rosenberger
humans who believe nonhuman animals are inferior beings and should be
treated like slaves, the Heifer Project International makes a lot of
sense. For more than 50 years, the Heifer Project has worked to feed
humans by distributing animalschickens, rabbits, cows, guinea
pigs, sheep, and other creaturesto needy individuals and families.
In terms of spreading the misery of animal agriculture around the world,
the Heifer Project is a champion.
Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, the nonprofit Heifer Project International
currently provides animals and training to more than 300 animal agriculture
projects in some 40 countries. The Heifer Project supports its speciesist
activities by enticing people to buy animals as gifts for those in need.
The Heifer Projects holiday gift catalog, which it touts as the
most important gift catalog in the world, encourages a person
to, for example, donate a sheep in honor of your mother, who has
always loved these gentle creatures.
Yes, when it comes to loving animals, carnivores (and some
vegetarians) are truly perverse. Is there another type of love
that causes so much pain, hardship, and, ultimately, death to the objects
of its affection? Imagine, say, a nonprofit outfit named the Child Project
International that encourages human animals to purchase children so
needy individuals can...
The Heifer Project literally puts a price on animals heads. A
gift of a heifer costs $500. A goat, $125. One can give a pig for $120,
or a share of a pig for $10. Other animal slaves whose lives are being
auctioned off include oxen and camels, geese and ducks, llamas and water
buffaloes, even bees. Do you want to send a pair of donkeys to Zimbabwe
so the animals can spend the rest of their indentured lives as draft
animals? That costs $5,000.
In 1999, the last year for which statistics are available, the Heifer
Project distributed approximately 16,250 animals. This figure, however,
does not accurately reflect the amount of animal torment and death for
which the Heifer Project is indirectly responsible. When a person purchases
a gift animal from the Heifer Project, such as a female sheep, the Heifer
Project ensures that the female sheep is donated to a village in which
there is a male sheep, so the female can be bred. Each family
gives one or more of its sheeps offspring to another family in
need in the community, says the Heifer Projects holiday
gift catalog. The second recipient family agrees to contribute
their sheeps first female offspring to a family in needwho
ALSO agrees to pass on the gift. (Emphasis in the original.)
A 1985 gift of 105 rabbits to the DaYi project in China, for example,
has now produced hundreds of thousands of rabbits [who] are helping
3,000 families feed themselves, according to the Heifer Project.
As with all animal agriculture, the Heifer Project faces a pair of insurmountable
problems, the mention of which it largely skirts in its gift catalog
and on its website, www.heifer.org. First, as with all animal agriculture,
the process of creating a pound of edible flesh involves feeding many
more pounds of plant food and grain to the animal before he or she is
slaughtered. Its hardly an efficient method of producing food.
Open the Heifer Projects holiday gift catalog to page nine, for
instance, and youll see a color photograph of a farmer feeding
corn to a pair of pigs. Second, the animals are not raised on factory
farms, so they often graze in the neighboring area, which results in
the loss of habitat for nondomesticated animals and furthers the extinction
of other animal species.
When I spoke with Jennifer Shumaker, a Heifer Project spokeswoman and
director of evaluations, she claimed habitat loss isnt an issue
because 100 percent of the foundations animal recipients
receive pro-environmental animal-grazing training. According to the
Heifer Project holiday gift catalog, however, Some HPI families
use managed grazing techniques or keep their sheep in zero-grazing pens,
to protect the environment... The most telling word in that sentence
is some familiesnot all.
When I spoke with Shumaker about why ethical vegetarians such as myself
disagree with the groups mission, Shumaker said the animals who
are not employed as draft animals are used to produce milk and eggs.
Were not pushing meat eating. Our mission is not to get
people to eat meat, said Shumaker. Our work is not inconsistent
Really. When the draft animals outlive their usefulness, do they go
to a retirement home? I asked Shumaker. What about the guinea pigs who
the Heifer Project distributes to families in Peru? Do they lay eggs?
Do they produce milk? What about the rabbits who end up in Cameroon?
What kind of eggs do they lay?
As the holiday gift catalog mentions in its section on ducks and geese,
the animals produce valuable down and feathers as well as big,
protein-packed eggs and meat... Does a child you know love a rubber
ducky? Honor that child with a gift of HPI ducks or geese...
All of the Heifer Projects gifts dont involve animals. For
$60, one can offer the gift of trees (obviously a major priority since
its conveniently located at the very end of the catalog). In Loma
Negra, Peru, the Heifer Project has donated seeds for algorrobo trees
that a group of local residents hope to use to transform a barren
stretch of land into a forest of nutrient-rich fodder trees. While
I agree this is a good idea, I would never support the Heifer Project
because of its speciesist practices.
Many people do, though. When I clicked on the Heifer Projects
website in mid-January, I was greeted by a photograph of actors Mary
Steenburgen and Ted Danson, each of whom are cradling a lamb in their
arms, and an approving quote from Mary that encourages readers to consider
surprising your friends during the holiday season with a meaningful
gift. Also, the Motley Fool website (www.fool.com) is featured
on the Heifer Projects home page because the investment group
selected the Heifer Project as part of its annual Foolanthropy
Please tell the Heifer Project how you feel about its furthering of
animal slavery. Encourage it to change its emphasis from animal products
to plant and tree products and from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian
diet. Contact: Jo Luck, CEO, Heifer Project International, PO Box 8058,
Little Rock, AR 72203; firstname.lastname@example.org;
A New Years Resolution: Animal Flesh, Not Meat
If you didnt make any resolutions for the new year, please
adopt one of mine: Ive decided to upgrade my vocabulary and replace
the word meat with flesh or animal flesh.
As in No, I dont eat animal flesh.
The words flesh and animal flesh are less appetizing.
Definitely more graphic. Also, societys use of the term meat
is often confusing as carnivores typically consider only the flesh of
mammals to be meat. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary
of the English Language (third edition) defines meat as The edible
flesh of animals, especially that of mammals as opposed to that of fish
Talking about flesh, as opposed to meat, to
carnivores may cause them to reflect upon their diet and their unhealthy
relationship with nonhuman animalsand quit eating animal flesh.
Another word you may want to incorporate into your vocabulary is meathead.
Please use the term with a sprinkling of humor, though. Carnivores,
Ive heard, can be easily offended.
Lastly, the next time someone glibly tells you that he or she is an
omnivore, please ask them what human flesh tastes like. Im (ha)