Goat for Gold, not a good idea

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Goat for Gold, not a good idea

In the last few years–and especially recently–we’ve been hearing a lot about charities that will donate a live farm animal to impoverished people.   Some of these include Heifer International, Oxfam, and more recently, the local Goat for Gold:

B.C. businessmen Joel and Danny Nagtegaal were drinking beer and decided last spring to buy one goat for a poor family in Africa each time the Vancouver Canucks won a playoff game. Other Vancouverites decided to do the same thing and 1,073 goats were purchased for African families. Now, the brothers plan to buy a goat for an African family every time a Canadian wins a gold medal. (Goat for Gold No!, Lifeforce Foundation)

Sounds nice, huh?  I’ll admit that when I first heard of these sorts of programs, I thought the same thing. But it turns out that the charming photos of children holding cuddly baby animals don’t reflect the full truth of the matter.

“Farming animals is an inefficient, expensive and environmentally destructive way of producing food,” Tyler continued.

“Sceptical readers might accuse me of dressing up a concern about animal welfare as a concern for the world’s poor. There are major animal welfare issues involved in sending animals to, for instance, the Horn of Africa, where earlier this year up to 80% of the cattle perished in a drought. Many of the remainder were washed away in the floods that followed.

But this is not about cows taking precedence over people. Reality is that animal gift schemes are, in the words of the World Land Trust, ‘environmentally unsound and economically disastrous.” (Animal Aid director, Andrew Tyler)

Another point is that two-thirds of the planet–particularly the people who live in poverty-stricken nations–is lactose intolerant.  Many of these send-an-animal programs advocate a gift of a cow or a goat, as the animal can be milked (assuming the people can find another animal, for mating purposes) and then slaughtered for her meat.   Even without accounting for the numerous health problems associated with dairy, one might think that there is a better way to feed the hungry than with a product they cannot properly digest.

From the Vancouver Humane Society:

  • Animal donation programs can fail (and the animals die) because the recipients don’t have the money to afford proper vet care (if it is even available), and donor programs sometimes don’t account for that in their funding (It costs a lot more than people are willing to pay per goat as donors.)
  • All farm animals require proper nourishment, large quantities of water, shelter from weather, and veterinary care. It is questionable whether it is worthwhile to devote such resources (in critically short supply in many developing countries) to such an indirect way of feeding people.
  • Animal donation programs perpetuate dependency of people on donors (versus working with  recipients to address their own needs, be it acquiring animals or seeds or whatever, but by themselves)
  • Animal donations are easy for donors and make them feel good, but what is needed more are the less “sexy” things like leadership, peace building, psychosocial assistance, basic business training (how to save money and get where you want to be), and training in how people can help themselves out of poverty.
  • Supplying cows, goats and chickens to impoverished people with limited resources can just add to their burden.

More info:

And a few groups that feed the hungry without hurting animals:



January 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm

What is this? The 1800s?
What people in developing nations need is not another living thing to support in the hope that they may benefit from it by killing it or impregnating it, they need money (which brings them many more nutritional possibilities), and in addition to that – financial education.
Giving goats as charity is not only antiquated but idealistic and overly simplistic.


February 2, 2010 at 10:22 am

Lifeforce started our Goat For Gold No! campaign about a month ago. For more information about how donating goats and other livestock harms people, animals and the environment see:
We also started a Facebook page (link in the above)


February 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Lifeforce!! You are awesome! We already linked to your page in the first paragraph–it was a great resource.


February 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Thanks Becci:
Lifeforce has written to John Furlong at VANOC, Premier Campbell (who supported the Goat Canuck Goat similar scheme that donated 1073 goats) and MLAs, MPs and Senators.We’ll be posting any responses on the Facebook page.

I think the Goat For Gold site gets a lot of support from the goat and livestock industries that want to expand their markets.

The one brother that started it, Joel, kept saying that I don’t understand what they are doing. He also said that the goats aren’t slaughter when in fact they are. So people are given more burdens and have to compete for the food/water, there are human and animal health threats, animal cruelties (confirmed by the Kenya SPCA) and environmental degradation.What more is needed to stop this horrible plan?

Stay tune for an OP ED in a popular Vancouver newspaper.

Say ‘no’ to animal donation programs | Liberation BC blog

December 15, 2010 at 5:15 pm

[…] Over the last few years, we’ve been hearing a lot about animal donation programs such as those offered by Oxfam in Heifer International.  Last year, we published a blog post about this issue: Goat for Gold, not a good idea. […]

Say ‘no’ to animal donation programs | Liberation BC blog

December 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

[…] offered by Oxfam in Heifer International.  Last year, we published a blog post about this issue: Goat for Gold, not a good idea. Kamlabai Gudhe with her high-eating, low yielding cow that cost Rs. 17,500 of which she paid Rs. […]

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