Animal Aid

Letter from Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler to Christian Aid Director Dr Daleep Mukarji

Letter from Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler to Christian Aid Director Dr Daleep Mukarji

July 4, 2007

Dear Dr Mukarji

I write in connection with the series of Cut the Carbon rallies that Christian Aid (CA) is due to launch in Belfast on July 14.

Animal Aid, of course, accepts the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that human activity is generating dramatic changes in the global climate and that the most devastating impacts are felt in the poorest parts of the world - even though industrialised nations are responsible for some 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

I have read your recent reports and briefings on this issue, including Global Warming, unnatural disasters and the world’s poor, and Life on the edge of climate change: the plight of pastoralists in Northern Kenya. The suffering and deprivation they chart cannot fail to move any person with an ounce of compassion.

What we also find distressing, however, is Christian Aid's failure to recognise the major contribution to climate change played by animal farming. Perhaps this is because CA heavily promotes ‘gifts’ of farm animals to destitute communities around the world. Your charity engages in this activity despite all the evidence showing that saddling impoverished people with animals - who require considerable quantities of food and water, as well as veterinary care - increases rather than diminishes their poverty.

In the first of the two CA reports referred to above, the principal greenhouse gases involved in global warming are listed (p.2). You would have helped readers by citing data published recently in a major UN report (Livestock’s Long Shadow, Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2006). The gaseous emissions from livestock are “enormous”, noted the report (p.272). “[They] currently amount to about 18% of the global warming effect - an even larger contribution than the transport sector worldwide.”

The FAO report also has something decisive to say about the inefficiencies of using animals as a source of nutrients for people rather than devoting agricultural resources (land, labour, water) to producing food for people to consume directly. “In simple numeric terms,” the report states, “livestock actually detract more from total food supply than they provide. Livestock now consume more human edible protein than they produce. In fact, livestock consume 77 million tonnes of protein contained in feedstuff that could potentially be used for human nutrition, whereas only 58 million tonnes of protein are contained in food products that livestock supply.”

The Guardian recently reported (June 16, 2007) that the Bishop of London became a vegetarian two years ago precisely because of “the negative environmental impacts caused by rearing livestock for meat”. He told the newspaper: “In Mozambique, I saw very clearly what an inefficient converter beasts were of grain into protein.”

Livestock also require prodigious quantities of drinking water - a precious commodity that, in much of Africa, is in critically short supply. Non-pregnant adult dairy cows require something like 50 litres of water every day. In early lactation this rises to more than 90 litres. In regard to sheep and goats, some authorities recommend providing for ad lib water consumption. Others advise that an average of three litres of water be made available every day. Hot weather would require an additional 20-30% of water. If animals aren’t fed and watered properly they get sick and die.

In your report that described the plight of pastoralists in Northern Kenya, you write of the now endemic droughts that have killed millions of animals and forced one third of the population to abandon their pastoral way of living. A growing shortage of grazing land and water has produced serious conflict within pastoralist communities and between pastoralists and farmers. Many people shelter in crude camps dependent on aid. Meanwhile, the problems of deforestation and associated land degradation grow ever more severe due to trees being cut down for income-generating charcoal, firewood and building materials.

Your emotive advertising has featured photographs of dead, bloated goats in barren landscapes. Cattle losses, you report, are as high as 93% and you offer, as an example, one community that lost in a single day 500 sheep and goats, and 250 cattle.

All the evidence points to livestock farming being unsustainable in that region. Yet Christian Aid encourages the public to give money so that more animals can be provided for communities that cannot support them. The FAO reports that the number of hoofed animals in sub-Saharan Africa increased from around 275 million in 1961 to more than 655 million by 2005. In that same period, the levels of poverty and environmental destruction increased alarmingly. By providing more animals, Christian Aid will produce more human misery, more land degradation and ensure that more animals will die from starvation, thirst and exhaustion.

I must ask whether the terrible fate of these animals is of any concern at all to Christian Aid because I could find not one word in all of your literature recognising the suffering of millions of these drought and flood victims.

As well as pleading with the public for funds to replace the animal victims, you indicate (Life on the edge of climate change, p13) that you want donor money to go into large-scale infrastructure projects, including the construction of livestock transport networks, slaughterhouses and meat exports. So far, you have dressed up your animal gifts in bright, upbeat colours. I believe you should square with your prospective donors and tell them that they will be paying for the drought and flood survivors to be loaded onto trucks and despatched to killing factories.

The problems of mass human poverty, land degradation and climate change are, self-evidently, of an immense scale. You will know all too well that they require strategic action in the political, social and economic spheres. At the heart of this issue are fundamental questions of equity and justice.

There are also practical actions that can be taken at the local level to alleviate human suffering. Christian Aid and other aid charities already engage in a great deal of such work. I refer to tree planting, the production of green manures, and water management schemes, including irrigation, earth dams and storage tanks. Then there are the various healthcare, veterinary and educational initiatives. (Animal Aid, incidentally, over the past two years, has raised money for an irrigation scheme and a tree-planting project linked to a vegetarian orphanage in the Rift Valley province of Kenya.)

The above is an outline of our objections to the provision of animals to impoverished peoples of the ‘developing’ world. I am happy to provide further background and to discuss this matter with you.

To reiterate: climate change threatens us all. Urgent, practical action must be taken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Promoting livestock farming disproportionately increases such emissions. Promoting it in the poorest, most environmentally devastated parts of the world is especially damaging. The consequences are additional stresses on precious water supplies, environmental destruction, a nightmare animal welfare scenario and more human poverty and malnourishment.

We urge you to direct your resources away from animal gift schemes and concentrate on the many initiatives that aid people, animals and the planet.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler

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