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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday consumerism...

Hey all,

Its almost Christmas time, so I am sure many of you are frantically running around purchasing presents for your family and friends. Giving gifts is a great way for showing people that you care and that they are important to you. But i think we should extend that a bit and show people around the world in desperate situation that we care about them as well. While we do not know them, our gifts to help others can impact a life much more than the scarf, chocolate, or  that you purchase for a friend. And personally, giving gifts to charity in the name of someone can be a lovely present, especially for that hard to shop for person or the person who can afford whatever they want already.

The gift I am talking about today is the gift of Winter Child Survival Pack from UNICEF USA. This is a great idea as a gift and can help protect a child from many of the dangers of a winter. And judging by the weather in Europe it is going to be a very rough winter for many people. So with some of our Christmas giving, why not help save someones life and purchase a survival pack.

The packs come with "Micronutrient powders that help a child on the brink of malnutrition get the vitamins and minerals that are most essential for them to grow up healthy. Immunizations from measles and polio that will save a child from two of the most common and painful diseases in the developing world. Water purification tablets to filter out dirt and bacteria from water so that children can drink without fear of getting sick. Your pack contains enough tablets to clean 50,000 liters of water!"

Access to safe water is one of the largest humanitarian issues of our decade and these tablets are a way to protect children who lack access to clean water. This alone could save a child's life, but with the micronutrient powder and immunizations it could really make a difference in a child's life.

This Christmas please consider donating as a gift. My family often donates in each others name to Heifer International, Doctors Sans Borders, and other organizations and those gifts often mean more to me than the scarf's and DVDs I get. A DVD is wonderful, but saving someones life is another thing entirely.

Please help others this holiday season and change someone' life! Thanks!


  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. So, you would have a village starve than to increase their quality of life?

    I get that you, vegaia, are focusing on animal safety and animal rights but how can we keep animals safe when we still have people staving? As much as it hurts me to see animals treated inhumanely, it bothers me so much more knowing that there are people that go hungry everyday.

    What would you suggest, vegaia?

  3. Hey vegaia, I can really hear the passion you have for animal rights and I understand that. I feel as if you are condemning Heifer without knowing how they operate. For example, Heifer focuses on using the correct animals for the environment, meaning local animals that don't disturb the ecosystem - so they should not be subjected to the same problems of shipping animals as some do. (If you know differently, please let me know) I also get the impression that you think that the majority of the animals they give out are cows and that is not true the majority of their animals are smaller ones such as chicken, geese, goats, guinea pigs, etc. The addition of eggs into a diet can give substantial benefits for the health of a family. And they also allow for the gifts of trees and some other plants to help fight erosion and to maintain soil.

    But I acknowledge that our current system in the US of eating large amounts of meat is unsustainable long term and it costs much more in resources for the meat than it does for a vegetable source. However, most of the animals are raised to give the family an income source, not for them to eat. Although it does happen. Families with chickens can sell the eggs to get money for school fees and etc.

    So while I see issues with our animal consumption rates, isn't it better to do something and try to help individuals around the globe than to merely decry a group. I suppose the issue for me is that you are criticizing Heifer without giving an alternative. Instead of supporting heifer, who or what do you support as an alternative?