This is the time of year when we receive full color, glossy catalogs from Heifer International and organizations like them, asking for donations to send live animals as “gifts” to help alleviate hunger and poverty in poor countries.

Animal “gifting” does can actually do a disservice to the people and communities the charities claim to help. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea.

Many recipients of live animals are already struggling to feed their families, and more animals means more mouths to feed, adding to the family’s burden.

Also many farmed animals use up to 10 times more water than growing crops for direct human consumption. The animal’s water needs very often compete for the drinking water needs of local communities.

The World Land Trust calls animal gifting programs “madness, environmentally unsound, and economically disastrous.” They consider it “grossly irresponsible to continue with these schemes as a means of raising quick money for charities over the Christmas season.”

Former Indian minister for social welfare Maneka Gandhi has noted that goats destroy the fertility of land, and within two years those who are given a goat are even worse off.

Heifer International catalogs feature children hugging and kissing healthy animals. This organization is not a friend to children or to animals. In reality, children who are supposed to benefit from animal gifts may be taken out of school to tend to them. And animals endure long transport times to the recipient’s location and much evidence exists to say they are not cared for properly after they arrive.

If you wish to help feed those in need this giving season please do not support Heifer International or other animal gifting organizations. Instead give to charities such as A Well Fed World or The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Both charities provide hunger relief to families without harming animals or our fragile environment.

This is Marina Drake for Alliance for Animals.

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