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Ghoulish, Live Animal Charity Has Poor Track Record

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(Article changed on October 29, 2013 at 12:18)

Just in time for Halloween, Heifer International's new catalogue is in the mail. Heifer International is a Little Rock-based Christian charity that "ends hunger and poverty" through sending live animals to poor people overseas. The images of cute kids hugging cute animals, many of whose throats will be slit after the cameraman leaves, are right out of Walt Disney or Pet World. If she were alive today, Dorothy Parker would "frow up."

Short painful life ahead by Heifer International

This year's catalogue of cherubic children and smiling market women with perfect teeth and clothes, tells donors their live animal gift will feed families, help the poor rise above poverty and "empower women around the world to overcome"[the] burden of discrimination."

"Before receiving a gift of ducks from a Heifer supporter, Pham Thi Nguyen from Viet Nam remembers, 'In the past, my children would be sick often,'" says the catalogue. "Now we have more money to improve our house and send our children to school."

How do people with no food  feed animals, people with   no money  provide veterinary care and shelter  for animals and people with no resources  keep animals from harm and being lost and stolen?


If poor families can't "grow enough feed" they "are taught the best substitutes to buy locally," says a Heifer International newsletter. Yes, buy. When animals get sick, families can use "local natural substances that are known to provide specific medicinal benefit."  Families can also build shelters out of "locally available materials," the newsletter assures donors. Heifer does not address the risks of zoonotic diseases and swine and avian flu outbreaks to the poor communities. Maybe there are "natural" vaccines.

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Another question is why Heifer sends milk-producing animals to countries where 80 percent of the population is lactose intolerant? Heifer received funding from the  Bill & Melinda Gates  Foundation to open dairy operations in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, replete with chilling plants, backup power generators and "refrigerated commercial dairy delivery trucks." Why are dairy operations and animal-based agriculture in general, which wastes 80 percent of plant and grain crops, an upgrade for poor countries?


Two teachers who Heifer sent on a tour saw the downside of this insipid business plan when they visited a Honduras community that received live animal gifts. A "disease killed off all the chickens in a particular village," and  children were sleeping with the animals  to keep them from being stolen, they reported. Heifer recipients are also reported to be feeding their animals  over their children  because it is a better return on investment, according to some anecdotal reports. Thanks, Heifer.

Fifteen years ago in Chicago, a Heifer International attempt at a domestic animal poverty project also failed. A aquaculture operation was set up in a Chicago housing project so at risk youth could sell fish to area restaurants and embark on promising livelihoods. But in 1999 all the fish froze to death when the heat and power went off. Two years later, the same thing happened only this time the air conditioning  went out because of a storm. The fish leaped "out of their barrels trying to escape accumulating ammonia and rising temperatures," said the  Chicago Tribune.


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Many in the US are mourning the death of more than 20,000 head of cattle and calves who froze to death in a freak blizzard in South Dakota. The sight of the poor mammals, huddled together in a last, vain attempt to retain their warmth and evade their fate is heartbreaking. What is the fate of live animals shipped to poor countries when the world's richest country could not prevent such a shocking, tragic die-off?

About Martha Rosenberg

Martha Rosenberg is a health reporter whose first book, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency (Random House) was named in the ASJA 2013 Outstanding Book Awards and featured on CSPAN, National Public Radio, the Ed Schultz show, the Thom Hartmann show, Huffpost Live and RTV. 

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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A highly recommended alternative food charity is A... by Martha Rosenberg on Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013 at 12:09:22 PM
I went to the site that you highly recommend and f... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:23:46 PM
Thank you for telling the truth Martha.  For ... by Rae Sikora on Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013 at 2:06:55 PM
Great comment and so true - all of it.  Thanx... by Suzana Megles on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:18:18 AM
Having retired in Ecuador the past four years, my ... by Linda Jensen on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 6:30:18 AM
Can't agree with your views AT ALL.  I agree ... by Suzana Megles on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:23:52 AM
Thanx Martha.  How foolish we are to buy into... by Suzana Megles on Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:27:36 AM