Animal Rights Activists vs. the Heifer Project

In September 2001 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for an end to U.S. government contributions to Heifer International. Now that the events of September 11 are fading, PETA and other animal rights activists are returning to that campaign against one of the most innovative international charity’s around.

Activists are angry because Heifer International is planning to send chickens to and other farm animals to poor families in Afghanistan. The charity specializes in using donor money to buy people in developing world animals from cows to camels and everything in between. Currently, Heifer International is working in Afghani refugee camps in Pakistan. The charity is giving families chickens, goats and cattle and training the families to care for the animals.

The idea behind Heifer International is to use aid money to make families self-sufficient rather than dependent on aid agencies.

Of course this is anathema to animal rights activists. As animal rights activist Barbara Biel put it in the subject of an e-mail protesting Oxygen’s support such efforts, “‘Send a Chick to Afghanistan’ is CRUEL!” The sample letter Biel and other activists are circulating is hilarious.

For example,

The HPI gift catalog shows numerous smiling adults and children hugging or cuddling goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, llama, chickens, cows, water buffalo . . . Not surprising, there are no pictures showing the animals being killed for consumption. The catalog does mention protein, meat, selling offspring, but pictures of slaughter would make this catalog messy and off-putting to the folks they want to sucker in with cutesy writing such as:

“Your granddaughter is celebrating her very first Christmas. What better way to share the joy you see in the eyes of such happy, healthy little girl than to give her a trio of bunny rabbits to a struggling family in her name.”

. . .

How happy and joyous will this child be when she’s old enough to know that violence was done in her name? How happy and joyous would a child be witnessing the killing of rabbits?

And so on. But it gets better. The letter continues,

According to the catalog, HPI provides “free Sunday school lessons and faith-based materials similar to ‘A hero’s Story’ that teach children ages 5-12 about the problems of hunger and poverty.” No doubt, these materials fail to mention that HPI teaches exploitation and lack of compassion for other living beings. HPI fails to mention that it teaches killing. HPI doesn’t tell young people that it is invested in spreading animal agriculture, rather than plant-based sustainable agriculture [one would think the presence of animals might tip them off, but maybe Biel’s a bit too slow to notice that]. There is no education about the politics of hunger and food distribution, and the dire health and environmental costs of animal agribusiness.

. . .

Contrary to HPI’s belief, animals are not renewable resources but individuals capable of experiencing not only crude emotions like fear, but far more subtle and complex emotions such as love, grief, pride, shame, joy, and loneliness.

Huh? Has anyone ever seen a rabbit act ashamed?

The letter ends by calling Heifer International “insidious and dangerous because it promotes violence and labels it ‘doing good.'” Apparently opposed to animal rights activist who promote lies and label it as “the truth.”

PETA, meanwhile, is upset that about $13 million in international aid from the United States has been distributed through Heifer International. It wants people to write the U.S. Agency for International Development and “ask that it immediately stop exporting animal cruelty.”


Stop the Use of Tax Dollars to Promote Animal Cruelty in Developing Countries. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, September 20, 2001. thinks HPI is doing good work–Pls send letter. Barbara Biel, E-mail communication, Accessed: January 24, 2002.

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