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December 13, 2010



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.

Brother Bartimaeus

Thanks as always for this, and congrats on making it through all three lectionary years!

I've always thought Joseph has gotten short changed as the stand in dad for Jesus. However I'm leading several people in our church through reading the entire bible this year (almost done!) and it occurs to me that we seriously downplay that Joseph is Mary's kinsman-redeemer in this story. That is the most cherished and important roles in the Old Testament.

In fact, it seems that all the women mentioned in Matthew's geneaology had kinsman-redeemers of sorts. Tamar and Ruth had traditional kinsman-redeemers, Rahab was redeemed by the spies (or is she really the redeemer?), and after Uzzaiah's death David cares for Bathsheba (of course not innocently). Not only does Jesus come from the line of David, but he comes from a long tradition of redemption in Israel.

I've also been wrestling with the virgin prophecy, but am at a place now that I think it is a red herring. The prophecy that is fulfilled isn't that Jesus would be born a virgin, but that God is with us. There are at least ten different times, all of them crucial points in Israel's history, that God says "I am with you."


John Petty

Hi Bro,

Thanks for that note about "God with us" in the OT. I may use that in my Christmas Eve sermon!

Timberland Store

So cute! I already like you on FB and also get your posts on Google Reader. :)

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