Sustainability Environment

Famed scientist Jane Goodall warns against charitable Christmas gifts

Story at a glance

  • Jane Goodall is warning people against giving live animals to communities or individuals in developing countries this year, arguing that these gifts can strain the areas’ water supply.
  • Several charitable organizations encourage donors to give animals like goats, pigs, sheep or heifers to people in developing countries.
  • Goodall says donor money would be better spent on initiatives like seed hubs, water irrigation systems and soil regeneration.

Pioneering scientist and conservationist Jane Goodall has joined a number of others in warning against gifting animals like goats or cows this holiday season to people in developing countries.

The popularity of charity gifts has been growing in recent years, and some organizations allow donors to give livestock to communities in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa. One organization, Heifer International, based in Arkansas, encourages the gifting of live animals like goats, pigs, sheep, alpacas and heifers, or young female cows.

Heifer International argues that animal gifts are a sustainable way to feed hungry families.

“Giving an animal gift at the holidays is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more,” reads a portion of its website.


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But Goodall says these gifts can do more harm than good because an influx of live animals can put pressure on an already-strained water supply in many developing countries.

“In the lead-up to Christmas, many people are feeling generous and want to help those less fortunate than themselves. There are a number of organizations that have launched campaigns, suggesting that one way to help those suffering poverty and hunger is to gift them an animal, such as a heifer,” she says in a YouTube video uploaded this week.

“As a result, farm animals are purchased in great numbers by generous donors. Unfortunately, this can result in unintended consequences. The animals must be fed and they need a lot of water, and in so many places water is getting more and more scarce thanks to climate change,” she says, adding that “veterinary care is often limited or totally lacking.”

As an alternative, Goodall in the video recommends donors invest in community seed hubs, water irrigation systems and soil regeneration.

“It will be ever so much better to help by supporting plant-based projects and sustainable irrigation methods, regenerative agriculture to improve the soil. Well this means charities must develop plans to create a gift package that will appeal to the generosity of those who want to help those less fortunate than themselves,” she says.


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