08 December 2010

spreading the cheer like cream cheese on a bagel

I spoke about this on the video in my last post, but I figured I'd say it again here just in case you are a) impatient and don't want to sit through a whole video, or b) unable to watch videos for some reason.

So here's what's going on. This Advent, I've made a resolution not to buy any presents (I made a couple, but that was months ago so it doesn't count). I've also decided to take a fast from buying things I don't need...so no Starbucks, no iTunes downloads, no going out to eat, no random Target purchases. Just rent, bills, and groceries.

It might be easy to take all that extra money (because I've discovered that it really adds up quick) and just stash it away or something...but I've decided to take that money that I would have spent on random crap/Christmas presents, and make a donation to a charity. After asking for suggestions on my Facebook page, I decided to donate to an organization called Heifer International. They do really great things, so you should check out their website to learn more about their work and their philosophy--mostly because it seems silly for me to type it all out when they've already got it posted themselves.

If you go to their website and click the big red GIVE button, you can look at their gift catalog. My goal is to donate what's called the "Milk Menagerie"--but it's $1000. So that's where I'm looking to you. If you're interested in helping out with this project, you can contact me here on the blog, or via Facebook/e-mail, OR by calling me. A few people have already committed to donating with me, and we've got about $400 so far--only $600 to go!

I think this is a do-able thing. I think the people I associate with are generous people. It doesn't matter if you can donate $10 or $100...every dollar counts. So if you want to help, please get a hold of me sometime this week and we'll go from there. THANKS, people! You are wonderful...or as my favorite college professor would say, "I think you're awesome, do you know that?"

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhhhh!


  1. Heifer International (HI) is an organization that claims to work against world hunger by donating animals to families in developing countries. Its catalog deceptively portrays beautiful children holding cute animals in seemingly humane circumstances. The marketing brochure for HI does not show the animals being transported, their living and slaughter conditions, or the erosion, pollution and water use caused by the introduction of these animals and their offspring.

    By definition, animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways. The animals shipped to developing countries are often subject to; water and food shortages, cruel procedures without painkillers, lack of veterinary care resulting in extended suffering as a result of illness or injury.

    A large percentage of the families receiving animals from HI are struggling to provide for themselves and cannot ensure adequate living conditions, nutrition, and medical care for animals they have been given. HI provides some initial veterinary training to individuals and the initial vaccines. But, long term care for these animals and their offspring is up to the individuals.

    To make matters worse, animal agriculture causes much more harm to the environment than plant-based agriculture. The fragile land in many of the regions HI is sending the animals cannot support animal agriculture. Although they say they encourage cut and carry feeding of the animals to avoid erosion, the reality is often quite different.

    The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers. Regions that have adopted a diet with more animal products see an increase in these diseases. The remote communities supposedly served by HI have no way of dealing with the health consequences of joining the high-cholesterol world.

    While it may seem humane and sustainable to provide just one or two dairy cows here or there, the long term consequences are an increased desire for animal products in local cultures leading to an increase in production. These communities may be able to absorb the additional water use of one or two cows, what happens when there are hundreds or thousands of dairy cows, each consuming 27 to 50 gallons of fresh water and producing tons of excrement? The heavy cost to animals, the environment and local economies is not figured into HI's business practices.

  2. Hi Vegaia,

    My name is Maegan. I work for Heifer International, and I want to thank you for your well-thought response. I feel your concerns reflect some common misconceptions about our organization, and I’d like to offer some information about our practices and model for sustainable development.

    Heifer International focuses on small farms using appropriate technologies and livestock which feed on resources that are not grown for human consumption. Training in the care and appropriate use of animals, as well as helping to develop community organizations that support those values are a fundamental part of our work and one of the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development.

    We support environmentally-sustainable or beneficial animal management practices that produce safe, humane conditions for the animals. These animals are the Project Participant’s life blood. They want to raise them in the best manner possible and often develop close bonds with them.

    Heifer does a resource analysis before any project is started, monitors the projects to make sure they are successful, follows Heifer’s model for sustainability, and always works to preserve the environment. Renewable resources are high on the list of priorities. We say we are trying to “end world hunger and save the earth,” and we mean it.

    A great example of how careful attention to ecological sustainability is necessary to the well being of our project partners can be found in the Philippines. On the easily eroded hillsides in the Philippines, there is only one way to move a family away from destructive farming methods to the soil-conserving, water-conserving terrace method: give them an animal and training to go with it. Animals provide value in several parts of the ecosystem. They add worth to the farm by providing meat, milk, manure and work productivity, and they keep up with inflation. Animals such as water buffalo can help farmers build the terraces needed for improved farming methods, and their manure can fertilize the crops. The animals also provide a necessary financial safety net as farmers transition into terraced farming since initially their crop production will decrease. After three to four years, however, production usually exceeds previous best yields because the soil is better even though less land is under cultivation. The farmers also report a savings in real money by having to use less chemical fertilizer. Adding one key element in the ecosystem impacts the whole and supports environmental sustainability.

    Offering seeds for planting, developing irrigation projects, digging water wells (ensuring safe water for drinking and irrigation), providing fruit and nut trees, providing vegetable plots and/or training people to grow vegetables-are all key components of our projects, which maximize the limited resources of farmers subsisting on smaller plots of land. We emphasize dairy cows, dairy goats, egg-producing, poultry, wool, angora rabbits, etc., which provide much more than just meat.

    We share the concern for animal welfare, animal health and animal well-being and have many vegetarian employees and supporters. Livestock development can move people from living hand-to-mouth, give them a future, stop the practices of destroying forests and ruining the land and lower the rates of starvation and death due to easily preventable diseases.

    We use holistic methods - water, gender equality, renewing the environment, etc. - to help families lift themselves up from poverty and hunger to a better life.