donating an animal to poor people isn't a good idea

The photos are cute: bright-eyed, smiling children embracing doe-eyed, happy animals. Some of the animals even have digitally added gift tags around their necks for that extra special holiday cheer! For $45-500 US dollars, you can put money into a general fund of an organization who may or may not take a perfectly intelligent, emotional animal, ship them thousands of miles by boat to a poor family in a far off land who will raise and slaughter them. Charming.

Here's why not to support animal donation programs like OxFam's, Heifer International's, or MercyCorps'. This is not a complete list, of course.

If you are an animal lover: Farm animals are smart. They are emotional. All can suffer, experience pain and know joy. Why take a nice, happy-go-lucky goat, stick her on a boat for a thousand mile treacherous trip to where she may not be fed properly and will definitely have her throat slit? Besides, it should just really offend your sensibilities when these animals are referred to as "products" and then portrayed as cheerful participants in their own subjugation and death. It should at least creep you out.

If you care about people: Asia and Africa have the highest levels of lactose intolerance, with upwards of 90% being unable to properly digest milk. In Zambia, nearly 100% of the population is lactose intolerant. Yet Heifer International has several dairy cattle projects in Zambia. Sending dairy cows to areas with a mostly lactose intolerant population is mind-boggling, really.

If you like the environment: Farm animals are resource freaks. They drink a lot (one of our pigs will drink 5 gallons a day, one of our cows around 25 gallons). They eat a lot (our two cows could probably munch through a bale of hay a day). Goats especially are known destroyers of land and creators of deserts. Some of these people have enough problems with deserts, they don't need more. Since these recipients are already living on such limited resources, why add another resource-guzzling burden in the form of livestock?

If you like fine print: Read the fine print of these organizations. Your money isn't going to buy an animal. It's going to go in a general fund. While this may be common practice to avoid litigation, it is definitely misleading. If you care about that sort of thing, anyways.

Fine Print: OxFam, Heifer International has two fine print answers (Yes, your money goes into a specific fund, and No, it doesn't -scroll down to the tiny print), MercyCorps (at the bottom in barely readable font color)

Instead of donating an animal to an impoverished family in another country, why not check out these alternatives? These organizations are working to reduce human suffering through programs that are sustainable and animal friendly.

Sustainable Harvest International
Food for Life
Trees for Life
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
Women's Bean Project