A Catholic development agency has been criticised for its animal gifting programme after a whistleblower revealed they were appealing for more money to replace goats that were “unexpectedly eaten”.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) runs an animal gifting programme that it says is “one of our most popular virtual World Gifts” where goats are given to families in need. CAFOD doesn’t list recipient countries on its website, though it includes a case study in Bangladesh and another in Ethiopia.
“A goat can provide a family with up to 12 pints of milk a week to drink or sell,” it says on its website, adding, “Its poo works as free fertiliser to help grow crops. And kid goats can be sold at market, or given to other families. This is the goat that keeps on giving!”
But it appears that the gifts can be short lived. A coalition of animal rights groups is asking the charity to end its programme after it was revealed a CAFOD representative in Lancaster, UK, wrote in an email last year to supporters that they needed to buy more goats because some recipients were eating them.
In April, Janine Corridan of CAFOD told the coalition that “it is not our policy to replace goats if the goat has been eaten” – contradicting with what the Lancaster representative had told his email recipients.
“This makes a mockery of CAFOD’s claim that the practice of sending farmed animals is sustainable,” said Lisa Levinson, Co-founder of In Defense of Animals’ Interfaith Vegan Coalition. “It is time for CAFOD to realise that God loves all creatures, not just humans.”
Nicola Harris, Communications Director for the Plant Based Treaty, added: “These vulnerable animals are sent to vulnerable people – is it any wonder that things go wrong? It is because of short-sighted economic models like this that the planet is suffering an environmental emergency now.”
Scientists and religious leaders have been calling for the end of animal gifting for some time, saying that it aggravates the climate crisis instead of helping it.
The environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall has called on charities to end animal gifting, saying: “It will be ever so much better to help by supporting plant-based projects and sustainable irrigation methods, regenerative agriculture to improve the soil.”
A CAFOD spokesperson told VICE World News: “Livestock can be the difference between life and death and is usually provided to families who have no other way of making money.
“It is right that we respond to people’s immediate needs, especially when it can prevent malnutrition or starvation. But CAFOD also supports some of the world’s poorest farmers to adapt to climate change and grow food sustainably.”
UPDATE: This story has been amended to include a statement from CAFOD