In his standup special, Ricky Gervais joked about having bought a top-end coffee maker for friends one Christmas only to receive a card with a picture of a goat on it in return.
His friends had taken part in a tradition that has grown in recent years. The charitable concept is to give someone a card letting them know that their gift is knowing that a family in an impoverished region of the world has been given an animal that will hopefully help feed the needy family for months, or years, to come.
Gervais' joke asks the question of what purpose this serves and whether the African family receiving the goat would appreciate the extra mouth to feed.
Now the respected scientist, Jane Goodall, has released a video of a more serious tone asking people not to give the well intentioned gift this 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 give them an animal...Unfortunately, this can result in unintended consequences. The animals must be fed. They need a lot of water and in so many places water is getting more and more scarce thanks to Climate Change. (Jane Goodall)
Instead, Goodall recommends to support plant-based projects, sustainable irrigation methods, and regenerative agriculture methods to rejuvenate poor soil.
The problem comes in how to package such a gift. Sending a goat or cow to a poor family is a simple concept that can be simply expressed to others. The question becomes how to package a similar gift, which will intrigue charitable gift buyers around the holidays but solve the problems Goodall and others are concerned by.
Heifer International, a company in Arkansas involved in the donation of goats, pigs, sheep, alpacas, and heifers highlights the other side of the argument. They argue that the gift of an animal is the gift of a small business to a family that can benefit from the animal's milk, eggs, and wool.