Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Oxfam’s Christmas Goats

12 December, 2011 - 12:23 -- John Burton
Save habitat with WLT Christmas Gifts

Time for my annual whinge about Christmas Goats. Christian Aid, Oxfam, the MercyCorps, PresentAid, and many other aid charities are still promoting an expanding population of goats, sheep and cattle as a solution to poverty in Africa.

In fact a charity comparison site lists no fewer than eight charities selling goats as a form of poverty relief, as presents. As far as I can make out, despite my criticisms over the past four years none of the charities carry out environmental impact assessments of the impacts of goats.

Research into poverty and livestock

If you look at the statistics produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, it is clear that the vast increase in domestic livestock numbers, over the past half century, is one of the causes of habitat destruction, and consequently a major cause of poverty.  

An important research paper Mapping Poverty and livestock in the Developing World ( Thornton et al 2002,) raises as many questions as it does answers, but it would appear that few if any of the aid agencies are actually reading this sort of research, let alone addressing the implications of it.

Ask any conservationist what they think of goats, and they will tell you: they are one of the most environmentally destructive creatures in the world, particularly in arid, drought prone areas, with erratic rainfall.  There is also a direct correlation (as yet largely unquantified by any scientists) between the numbers of goats and the disappearance of wildlife. Large mammals, adapted to living in arid areas, such as antelopes (many of which are endangered), are in direct competition with cattle, goats, sheep  and other livestock – and cows need huge quantities of water as well as grazing.

Goat Gifts

Goats and sheep as Christmas presents may be a good way of raising funds, but it is giving a message which is not only misleading, but could be exacerbating an already serious situation. The aid charities promoting more livestock, are effectively encouraging habitat degradation. 

Saving an acre of rainforest, planting a tree or funding a ranger (or any one of WLT's green gifts this Christmas), will do more to alleviate poverty in the long run, than any number of goats. This is long-term thinking, against short-term emotive responses.

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Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Ah - another year, another Christmas goat whinge!

But it's clear that the goat flogging charities have no wish to learn, still less engage in debate, about the impact of goats.
Maybe this demonstrates my long-held conviction that a lot charitable effort is expended merely to indulge the egos of the wealthy. A sober, well thought out plan of effective action just won't cut it on the fundraising front.

Talking of fundraising, will you at WLT be reporting back to us on the Big Give event?

Am I wrong but was that a bit of a cock-up?

Due to the crazy way they set it up, limiting the amount of available cash eligible for "doubling" each day, then saying - "Come and Get it ! " - guess what? Everyone does what you advised us to do, pile in there good and early, and so the website crashes in the rush - on the first day! As my young niece might say - "Derrrrrrrr".

Then to cap it all, they run out of money after three days (or less) so that no one, as far as I can see, gets to attain their intended total.

Sir Alec needs to have some 'full and frank discussions' with his team, I reckon.

Submitted by John Burton on

The Big Give was a Big Disappointment. Our supporters and staff made a Big Effort, but the site performed badly (very badly) and we could probably we could have done better on our own, and not given the Big Give 4% of the donations.

It was worth a try: it promised a lot, but sadly failed to deliver. My only worry is that a lot of donors probably blame the WLT for the failure.

But a big thank you to all those who did manage to donate. And a big thank you to all of our supporters who committed up front. A report on it all will appear sometime over the next few days.

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Thanks for this, John.

But in your report, please will you let us know what we can do to get the Big Give people to make good on their grand proposals?
I donated within the 'doubling' window okay, but was very disappointed to see that there appeared to be only three out of the much publicised FIVE days with cash available for doubling. This was, after all, the whole "selling point" of The Big Give site - a 'week' of fundraising!

Well done for doing as well as you at WLT did. In these troubled times, you raised an impressive amount.

YOU were not the ones found wanting!

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