Activists Object to American Veterinary Medical Association’s Tsunami Relief Efforts

A number of animal rights activists were upset with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s choice of charities to aid the victims of December’s tsunami.

The AVMA announced that it would donate up to $500,000 in matching funds to Heifer International. Heifer International is an organization that aids the poor by providing livestock and training to poor families in the developing world. Naturally, animal rights activists have long opposed the organization.

In January, Pam Runquist of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights posted a press release to AR-NEWS quoting AVAR president Paula Kislak as saying,

Instead of sending veterinarians to help animal victims as AVAR has done, the AVMA has decided to donate up to $500,000 in matching funds to an organization hat misguidedly attempts to help people by promoting agriculture. Cattle, goats, and other farmed animals will be sent, used, and misused by the people for their eggs, milk, fur, or strength. The other very sad part is that the AVMA apparently doesn’t realize that providing crops and crop machinery would have been more appropriate, as many people in these areas are vegetarian. They shouldn’t be promoting an animal-based diet because it is unhealthy for the people and the environment. And, they certainly shouldn’t be supporting an organization that puts animals in harms way.

Runquist proves once again that there’s no stupidity like animal rights stupidity. Leaving aside for the moment Runquist’s horror that the AVMA is trying to do something for the people rather than the animals, Runquist’s complaint that “many people in these areas are vegetarian” shows her ignorance. Heifer International’s relief efforts are focused on Indonesia where it has had a presence in Sumatra for more than two decades. Like Aceh, the other area of Indonesia that suffered so greatly from the tsunami, Sumatra is predominantly Muslim.

Runquist’s press release adds that people should write and, “Tell the AVMA that it needs to get its priorities straight.” Sounds like its the AVAR that needs to get its priorities straight.

Animal rights activists Richard Gartner and Laurelee Blanchard followed Runquist’s request and sent a joint letter to the AVMA that read, in part,

We would appreciate the AVMA canceling its plans to send matching donations from AVMA members to Heifer International to help with tsunami relief efforts.

Many people in these disaster areas are vegetarian, so providing crops and crop machinery to the tsunami victims would be much more useful than shipping them livestock. Consider instead those farm animals in the tsunami areas in desperate need of veterinary attention. The AVMA ought to utilize its resources by sending veterinarians over there to help the animals affected by the Tsunami.

The crop machinery line is amusing — because some poor farmer is going to be able to maintain and use high-tech crop machines. In fact, as Runquist alluded to, many of the animals are used for their “strength” — i.e., to plow fields, etc.

AVMA executive vice-president Bruce Little responded saying,

The AVMA find HI’s comprehensive approach to disaster response most attractive. Heifer International and the AVMA recognize that environmental responsibility, indigenous traditions gender equity, and leadership training should not be separated from agricultural production. As part of its approach, HI not only provides life-sustaining animals that are appropriate for the land, resource needs, and culture, but also shows recipients how to properly care for these animals. Heifer International teachers farmers how to enrich their soil, curb erosion, conserve water, and use zero-grazing techniques to keep the land from being depleted. It also assists them in learning how to heat their homes using biogas.

With respect to tsunami efforts, HI is well-positioned to evaluate the affected areas, particularly since they have been operating in many of them for more than a decade. As you know, the epicenter of the earthquake that spurned the tsunami was just off Sumatra’s northwest coast. Heifer International’s Asia field staff is completing its assessment of conditions devastated by the tsunami and has recommended that HI expand existing development programs in Northern Sumatra, one of the areas hardest hit by the disaster. Heifer International and its partner organizations will work together and comprehensively over the next few years to rebuild existing animal and plant agricultural production, increase family incomes, and support housing, educational and public health efforts.

Imagine that — actually carrying about what happens to the people. The activists might want to try that sometime.


Tell AVMA to rethink tsunami relief effort pledge. Pam Runquist, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, January 31, 2005.

AVMA’s bogus justification for supporting Heifer International. Laurelee Blanchard, AR-NEWS, February 2, 2005.