Giving livestock isn’t charitable

Imagine, if you will, that you live in an impoverished community in an underdeveloped nation. Your one-room hut has a dirt floor without electricity or running water. You have to a make a fire just so you can cook. Food is scarce but you do your best to feed your children.

Then a western charity gives you a cow (or goat, or maybe a flock of chickens) so you can use this animal to improve your life. Sounds good, right?

Not so fast.

Ever raised a cow? Tried predator-proofing a chicken coop? Taking care of animals is hard to do. It’s a real burden, especially for people trying to raise a family and meet their basic needs.

cow in Africa

Livestock costs a lot. Animals get sick and require vet care, they drink a lot of water (water that might not be easily accessible), and they eat food that could be used to feed people. Animals eat more than they produce. Often the price of food for livestock is greater than the money families can get from selling milk or meat.

The chances of the animals getting good care (when people can’t give their families proper care) are slim. Sometimes animals are used as currency and are bartered away. Other times children are pulled out of school to tend to the animals.

Oxfam-funded drinking hole in East Africa

Eating high on the food chain isn’t wise. But western charities promoting western lifestyles and diets, would make you think it’s ideal. By introducing western eating habits, they’re introducing western diseases. The majority of people in countries where livestock is gifted are lactose intolerant anyway, so what good is a dairy cow?

The environmental costs of bringing more animals into a region are high too. Water pollution and waste runoff is one issue; desertization of land is another. Raising animals for food is a bigger contributor to global warming than all forms of transportation combined.

As a vegan, I care about animals. That’s why I can’t give money to charities that promote the mistreatment and slaughter of animals. I also care about people, which is why I don’t support charities that promote meat as an optimal food.

This holiday season, when you’re looking for ways to help others, look for organizations that promote ethical, sustainable ways to invest in communities. Here are a few:


  • Vegfam – Self-supporting, sustainable, plant-based food programs, and water resources.
  • Trees for Life – Fruit trees, books, education, clean water, and fuel-efficient stoves.
  • Plenty – Plant-based nutrition, healthcare, education, self-sufficiency, and disaster relief.
  • A Well-Fed World – Plant-based nutrition, education, farm animal rescue, and food sharing.
  • Kiva – Micro-loans for people to start small businesses and get themselves out of poverty.
  • SALEM – Education, shelter, environmental protection, nutrition information, and vegetarian meals.

Further reading


13 thoughts on “Giving livestock isn’t charitable

  1. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you so much for the post dear Jean! Over the years it is a topic which makes me angry and I also received a card recently to “buy” a Goat etc…I am SO glad you gave the alternatives and also biographies to consult. You are the Best! Encore merci!

    • Wonderful! I’m glad you’ve found value in my blog. I never want to preach, just share what I’ve learned. I read your post and I’ll comment on it soon. You make a lot of good points about inconsistencies and doing the best we can. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Thank you for listing the alternatives, how to help people without contributing to animal cruelty. I used to support one such charity till they sent me a glossy catalog asking me to purchase animals for poor people in Africa. Not a good idea for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

      • At the time I supported them they were not using animals as gifts, at least not to my knowledge. It’s important to know what charities do with the money the receive from us.

        I have been donating clothes to charities who call on the phone, but I stopped because it may be supporting research done on animals. I don’t give anymore unless I know. My hard earned money is not going to support cruelty when I won’t even eat meat, eggs or dairy.

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