Cafod has defended its aid programmes which provide livestock to families against criticism from vegan groups.
Responding to a letter signed by groups including the Interfaith Vegan Coalition and the Plant Based Treaty, which called for an end to “animal gifting”, the charity said that livestock “can be the difference between life and death” for those it helps.
It highlighted the severe drought in East Africa, “where children are facing starvation”. An effective response “means adopting an approach which works for families in those dire situations”.
“It is right that we respond to people’s immediate needs,” a spokesperson told The Tablet, “especially when it can prevent malnutrition or starvation. But Cafod also supports some of the world’s poorest farmers to adapt to climate change and grow food sustainably.”
This followed a letter from a number of vegan and animal rights groups calling on Cafod “to implement entirely plant-based projects”. They warned of “a plethora of negative consequences” from animal gifting programmes.
The signatories claimed that some families have eaten the dairy goats provided to them by the charity, which was buying more goats to replace them. “This makes a mockery of Cafod’s claim that the practice of sending farmed animals is sustainable,” said Lisa Levinson, co-founder of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition.
Cafod said that it provided livestock where circumstances demanded, with families given goats to provide milk or cheese, to produce dung for use as fertiliser, and to breed kids which might be sold.
“Livestock is only likely to be provided to communities where it is a traditional (and usually essential) way of life and is provided to families who have little or no other means of income generation,” the charity’s spokesperson said, emphasising that “development programmes need to work for local communities”.
He cited its work in the Kenyan diocese of Maralal, where the nature of the terrain means that 80 per cent of the population are sheep or cattle farmers, dependent on livestock for their livelihood. He said that goats provide peace of mind for those fearful of crop failure, as East Africa faces its worst drought in 40 years and the effects of four failed harvests.
The letter cites Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ in support of its argument, and urges Cafod to stop gifting livestock during the current liturgical Season of Creation.
Anita Krajnc of the Plant Based Treaty said: “While the rest of the world is beginning to understand that we have to transition from meat and dairy production and consumption to organic, plant-based production and consumption to combat the climate crisis, Cafod is continuing to promote animal farming rather than being a leader in climate justice and ending their animal gifting programme.”
Cafod’s current “Fix the Food System” campaign calls on the UK government “to keep the promises it made at the COP26 climate talks last year and support agricultural systems that tackle the climate crisis as well as putting local communities first”.