World Vision, Christian Aid Criticised for Sending Animals to Poor Countries

Seen a goat or sheep on the tube recently? Then it was probably in an advert asking you to buy one from the Christmas catalogue of a charity like World Vision and Christian Aid, currently offering goats, sheep, chickens and more in support of the neediest countries. But critics have claimed that buying animals is doing more harm than good.

Published 01 December 2006  |  
Seen a goat or sheep on the tube recently? Then it was probably in an advert asking you to buy one from the Christmas catalogue of a charity like World Vision and Christian Aid, currently offering goats, sheep, chickens and more in support of the neediest countries. But critics have claimed that buying animals is doing more harm than good.

The World Land Trust and Animal Aid said it was simply "madness" to send farm animals to areas where they will add to the problems of drought and desertification, as they will spread disease, damage the environment and wipe out vital water supplies.

John Burton, director of the trust, said: "I was prepared to put this down to ignorance of the issues last year, but now it seems utterly cynical. They seem to be doing this just to make money at Christmas. It's a gimmick."

He added: "The goat campaign may be a pleasing gift and a short term fix for milk and meat for a few individuals but in the long-term the quality of life for these people will slowly be reduced with devastating effect."

Animal Aid claims that six chickens, costing £11 and bought as a Christmas present for a friend, will heighten the disease risk and severely damage the local habitat.

Two goats, purchased for £125, can reduce the amount of farmland available to local people and result in villages becoming deserted while a cow, priced at £750, will drink up to 90 litres of water every single day.

"At Christmas time, people are desperate to make a gesture that will benefit the world's most vulnerable communities, if only to make us feel better about the relative great wealth the majority of us in the developed world enjoy," said Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid.

"But while donating animals might make the donor feel good, such gifts simply add to the burden of the impoverished recipients. There are many worthwhile initiatives to help people in developing countries that do not involve the exploitation of animals.

"We urge the public this year to boycott all donate-an-animal schemes and support projects that actually help people, animals and the environment. These schemes are not a good thing."

Animal Aid, which was formed in 1977 to campaign against all forms of animal abuse, claims that the various charities raise up to £10 million every year but routinely ignore the damage they are causing.

They accused aid agencies like Oxfam and World Vision of creating a much wider problem and being 'quick to spot a marketing opportunity'.

"All farmed animals require proper nourishment, large quantities of water, shelter from extremes of weather and veterinary care. Such resources are in critically short supply in much of Africa," added Mr Tyler.

But last night officials at the aid agencies named by the World Land Trust and Animal Aid insisted that its critics had simply misunderstood the schemes. They also said that while Animal Aid sold organic chocolates and wines the trust offered people the chance to preserve an acre of rainforest.

A spokesman for Oxfam said: "We strongly dispute these claims by Animal Aid and the World Land Trust. We work closely with the communities where we have worked for over 60 years to provide them with exactly what they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

"If you were to go to a village in Africa and ask the people what kind of difference these Christmas gifts make to their lives they would tell you that it makes a world of difference."

A Christian Aid spokeswoman said: "We work with local organisations on the ground who know the needs of the community better than anyone else. We don't just distribute hundreds of cows.

"We work with communities where there is enough water for the cows to drink and where the benefits are sufficient enough for them to drink the water. In terms of the risk of disease posed by chickens we make sure that proper veterinary advice is taken before we do anything."

"It is about what is most appropriate in each country at that time. There is a huge appetite for ethical gifts - it has trebled in the last three years."

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