Yet another charity is jumping on the ‘Goat Bandwagon’. Age International is using cute little Pygmy Goats to front a campaign calling on grandparents to donate unwanted belongings to high street charity shops.
According to Age International, if we donate old clothes and clutter to Age UK charity shops, some of the money raised could be used, for example, to buy goats for old people in developing countries. The charity says it costs £18 to buy a goat, which will supply an old person with milk, fertiliser and income.
At the risk of being told off for criticising other charities, I would like to know if Age International has carried out any environmental impact assessments, or any assessments of the social impact of doling out goats to older people overseas.
Perhaps Age International doesn’t know that goats are considered a cause of poverty in many parts of Africa. Perhaps the charity is unaware that almost every wildlife conservationist and every environmentalist believes that the problem in Africa is too many goats, not too few. In fact Age International only has to look at UN statistics published by FAO to see that increasing numbers of livestock in Africa mirrors increasing levels of poverty in Africa.
But then I am more than a little cynical about all these campaigns. Many of them have hidden in the small print something along the lines that ‘the donation will be used for a current priority’. So, despite my concerns, I wonder how many goats will actually be provided to the old people of the developing world.
Transparency in such issues is actually quite difficult. But at WLT we can at least report on how many acres we have helped fund, and in which countries. We can tell donors how many rangers the Trust is supporting and where. We can also give exact figures on how many trees our partners have planted, and more general figures on survival rates, and so on.
But how many of the goat giving charities, including Oxfam and Christian Aid, report on the number of goats, camels, cows etc they have provided, where they are, what sort of conditions they are kept in, and what their impacts are?
Several years ago now, I asked Oxfam some of these questions. But answer came there none. I feel I am often a lone voice in the wilderness, the scapegoat of Holman Hunt’s famous painting.
But perhaps our new Patron, Chris Packham, will take up the cudgels on behalf of what’s left of the natural environment, and persuade the aid charities that promoting goats as a saviour of humanity is not the best idea for the 21st century.
Goats may be cute for fronting fundraising campaigns in the UK, but they are an environmental disaster in many of the poorer parts of the world.