I'm a vegetarian/vegan and uncomfortable with the idea of supporting animal donations. Do people eat the animals that are given to them? What can you tell me about my concerns? What other options do I have for supporting your work to end hunger and poverty?
We share your concern for animal welfare, animal health and animal rights and have many vegetarian employees and supporters. But when people are living hand-to-mouth and livestock development will give them a future, we answer their urgent requests for help whenever possible. This stops the practices of destroying forests and ruining the land, and lowers the rates of starvation and death due to easily preventable diseases. We recognize that a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is a wonderful choice where it is possible, but must admit that oftentimes such a diet would not meet the nutritional and economical situation faced by our partners or be culturally appropriate.
We have many projects around the world where the animal does not provide any food directly to the family whatever, but rather is an integral player in developing various other sources of primary foods. The manure enriches the soil; draft power enables families to market excess vegetables, milk or other produce; additional income pays for schooling, clothes and food. In the case of smaller animals, however, many provide increased protein for impoverished families. Also, through careful management and record keeping, these project partners are increasing their income through the sale of offspring, eggs, furs, hair and so forth from these animals.
But we understand our responsibility and obligation to provide other options for earning your support if you cannot in good conscience go along with our animal donation practices and outlook. In addition to animals, many Heifer donors opt for a "greener" future by honoring friends and family who love the outdoors with gifts of trees. Trees are essential to life on Earth. They breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide. They hold water in the soil and moisture in the air. They provide food and medicines for birds, animals and people. Planting fast-growing trees puts nitrogen back in the soil, serves as windbreaks and provides fodder, fruit, fencing and firewood.
Or consider honeybees! Honeybees are of great benefit to Heifer project partners as well. Honoring a friend or family member with honeybees is a gift that shows you cherish both people and the environment. The way bees work together is a lesson for us all. They produce food, care for the young, recycle waste and create an effective, efficient community. They pollinate fruits, flowers and vegetables in the process - a benefit for us. A package of Heifer International bees and a hive gives families better crops, candle wax, pollen for medicine and honey to eat and sell.