'Well meaning’ aid charities urged to rethink their support for disadvantaged communities

A group of scientists and animal welfare campaigners are calling on international aid charities for a major rethink in their support for communities in developing countries.

Charities including Oxfam, World Vision, Christian Aid and Save the Children have been sent letters from the group warning the international aid sector of the dangers of offering communities livestock instead of plant-based food systems.

Often communities are given livestock by charities to reduce hunger.

But the group says this is counterproductive as it can give communities “more mouths to feed in areas where food and water are often scarce”.

The call has come from the Animal Save Movement together with the In Defence of Animals’ Interfaith Vegan Coalition, which involves faith leaders and scientists including anthropologist and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall.

The farming of livestock can worsen the climate crisis, decrease food stability and undermine sustainable development. It can also contribute to animal suffering and promote unhealthy western diets, said the group.

“Several well-meaning organisations promote sending live farmed animals as “gifts” intended to reduce hunger and poverty in low-income countries, it added.

“The true cost of sending a goat, cow, chicken, or other farmed animal is environmental degradation, soil acidification, water contamination, air pollution, global deforestation, forest fires, extreme weather, flooding, zoonotic disease outbreaks, health problems such as diabetes, more community slaughterhouses, and even childhood trauma from watching beloved animals get brutally slaughtered.”

Dame Goodall added: “There are a number of organisations that have launched campaigns, suggesting that one way to help those suffering poverty and hunger is to gift them an animal, such as a heifer.”

“As a result, farm animals are purchased in great numbers by generous donors. Unfortunately, this can result in unintended consequences.

“The animals must be fed and they need a lot of water, and in so many places water is getting more and more scarce thanks to climate change. Veterinary care is often limited or totally lacking.

“It will be ever so much better to help by supporting plant-based projects and sustainable irrigation methods, regenerative agriculture to improve the soil.”

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