Years ago I remember ordering Rev. Gary Kowalski's book - "The Souls of
Animals." I knew then that his was a kindred spirit even though our religious
persuasions are different. He is a Unitarian Universalist and I am Catholic.
Would that we had more people like him in my faith.
Jan Fredericks of Catholic Concern for Animals e-mailed us her new internet
site (God's Creatures Ministry) and there I found what I consider a very fair,
accurate, and comprehensive description of Heifer International. I think anyone
who will take the time to read his post with an open mind will probably come
away agreeing with many of the conclusions.
I found Rev. Kowalski's e-mail address and asked him if I could cross post his
enlightening article, and he graciously consented. On one site which accepts
posts from other authors, I had difficulty pasting it. I feel it was because of the
set up at this internet site. Or, of course, it could be my ineptitude with all
things computer. However, if it meant typing it - yes, for me it was worth this
little effort to share his insightful thoughts on Heifer International. Here is his
complete post of "What's Wrong With the Heifer Projcect?"
"As Christmas nears, many of you will be receiving a gift catalog from Heifer
International, inviting you to help the poor by donating an animal to a family
farmer in Africa, Latin America, or Asia. The photos in the catalog are warm
and fuzzy and the message is appealing. But there's another side to the story:
So What's Wrong With The Heifer Project? I think Heifer does some good work--
they are committed to small scale, local agriculture as opposed to factory farming.
But the emphasis on raising animals for food contributes to a general misunder-
standing among North Americans about the causes of hunger, which are very
much related to our consumption of a meat based diet...
Heifer Project International provides cows, sheep, and other livestock to rural
families around the world with the aim of fighting hunger. They claim to have
more than 300 projects in forty countries. With endorsements that cross the
ideological spectrum, from Ronald Reagon to Jimmy Carter, Heifer is virtually
a sacred cow--an organization that everyone seems to love. But there are
problems with exporting animal agriculture to the Third World.
Globalizing American farming methods is as big a mistake as cultivating a taste
for lamb chops and barbecue among the world's poor. Neither is the answer to
starvation. Did you realize that an acre of prime agricultural land can produce
40,000 pounds of potatoes, or 30,000 pounds of carrots, or 50,000 pounds of
tomatoes, but only 250 pounds of beef? The grain that could feed twenty people
suffices for just one cow. Peasants cannot afford this kind of waste and
Thus in country after country, food security has suffered as people switch from
rice, beans, and corn to eggs, dairy and meat to satisfy their nutritional needs.
Worldwatch Institute documents the trend in 'Taking Stock: Animal Farming and
the Environment." The authors point out that Taiwan increased its consumption of
meat and eggs by 600% between 1950 and l990. While the island nation was a
grain exporter at the beginnning of this forty year span, it depended on massive
imports of grain by the end of the period in order to feed its growing population of
livestock. Food self-sufficiency is undermined when people increase their reliance
on animal protein. The pattern has been repeated in the Middle East and Central
Mexico is one of the countries where Heifer works. Twenty-five years ago,
livestock consumed only 6% of the nation's grain. By 1990, the figure had climbed
to 50%, as increased numbers of cattle required more imported feed. Most of the
meat produced in Mexico and other Latin American nations is exported for dinner
tables north of the border while the little that remains at home is usally priced
out of reach of the poor.
Two-thirds of non-Caucasians on the planet are lactose intolerant and cannot
digest dairy. Among blacks, the numbers are even higher. Writing in "Science
in Africa," Dr. Harris Steinman points out that approximately 90-95% of Africans
lack the enzyme lactase and are unable to metabolize milk sugar. The common
symptoms of this genetic predisposition are nausea, vomiting, and abdominal
cramping. Despite this, Heifer is spending millions on initiatives like the Small
Scale Dairy Project in Zimbabwe, when the last thing that a hungry child in Africa
needs is a milk cow.
Heifer seems wed to the belief that animal agriculture is the answer to the world
problems, even when evidence indicates the contrary. Americans over consumption
of beef is damaging our health and ravaging the environment-a fact the Heifer's
public inormation officer readily admits. But then why is Heifer spending $123,558
to fund the "St Helena Beef Cattle Project" in Louisiana, whose stated purpose is
to boost beef production among American farmers? And isn't it a mistake to
encourage people in developing countries to emulate a diet that we know is
A United Nations Environment Programme survey counted 6,500 distinct breeds of
domesticated mammal and birds in 170 countries across the planet, including cows,
goats, sheep, buffalo, yaks, pigs, horses, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese,
and even ostriches. Unfortunately, much of this variety being lost because of
programs like those funded by Heifer, which is introducing Irish goats into Kenya.
In China, their "Pixian Dairy Cattle Importation and Improvement Project" is using
imported cattle to provide "high quality semen and embryo transfer..for dairy
development supposedly to increase the quality of the breeding stock. But the
effort to "improve" the gene pool with foreign imports can have unforseen
consequences. "The greatest threat to domestic animal diversity is the export
of animals from developed to developing countries," say the United Nations' Food
and Agriculture Organization, "which often leads to crossbreeding or even
replacement of local breeds." Loss of diversity puts animals (and the people who
depend on those animals) at heightened risk.
So that's my beef with Heifer. The roots of world hunger are systemic and usually
lie in an unfair distribution of land, which is itself related to an imbalance of
economic and political power. Addressing these underlying causes of malnutrition
is essential. Hunger is not caused primarily by lack of food. In fact, the world
currently produces enough calories to feed every person on earth an adequate diet.
Unfortuantely, too many of those calories are fed to cows and pigs rather than
getting to the people most desperately in need.
Heifer is now branching into praiseworthy efforts at reforestation and water
purifcation. But the charity's insistence on putting animal agriculture at the
center of their mission hampers their otherwise laudable goal of 'ending hunger,
caring for the earth.'"
I found so much new information re why I shouldn't support Heifer International.
The lines I underlined is a recap which succinctly sums it up for me.
1. The grain that could feed twenty people suffices for just one cow.
2. Food self-sufficiency is undermined when people increase their reliance
on animal protein.
3. Two-thirds of non-Caucasians on the planet are lactose intolerant and cannot
4. 6,500 distinct breeds of domesticated mammal and birds in 170 countries
across the planet are being lost because of programs like those funded by Heifer.
5. The roots of world hunger are systemic and usually lie in an unfair distribution
of land, which is itself related to an imbalance of economic and political power.
6. The world currently produces enough calories to feed every person on earth
an adequate diet. Unfortunately, too many of those calories are fed to cows and
pigs rather than getting to the people most desperately in need.