World Land Trust says goat 'adoption' is bad

The World Land Trust (WLT) is a British-based charity that campaigns to protect endangered habitats, from the Brazilian rainforest to the ‘elephant corridors’ of India.


Campaign Don't Adopt a Goat
Client World Land Trust
PR team PA Media
Timescale February 2006
Budget £1,000 

Last Christmas it was concerned by the 'Adopt a Goat' campaigns being marketed as presents by Oxfam, Farm Africa and Christian Aid.

The charities were encouraging their supporters to 'adopt' the animals, which would be given to families in Africa and India. But WLT claims goats can exacerbate poverty, because over-grazing in arid environments reduces the fertility of land, often turning it into desert. The difficulty was that the WLT did not want to be seen to be attacking fellow charities.

Objectives
To ignite a debate in a 72-hour timeframe which would lead to Oxfam and other charities reassessing their campaigns and acknowledging the credibility of WLT's arguments. To inform the public of the facts around the goat campaigns so they could make informed decisions before donating.

Strategy and Plan
PA Media wrote a press release outlining WLT's main arguments. As well as presenting its concerns about goats and desertification, it included a statement from WLT chief executive John Burton, who was made available for media interviews.

Many of Burton's interviews were organised as debates with representatives from Oxfam and Christian Aid, in an effort to increase public awareness of the subject. The interviews also gave Burton a forum from which to talk more generally about WLT's work.

Measurement and Evaluation
National newspaper coverage included The Times, with regional interest coming from the Bath Chronicle, among others. TV coverage included BBC Breakfast, Five News and Sky News. BBC World Service, Radio 2, Radio 4, Radio Scotland and Christian Radio also featured the debate.

Results
WLT says it received 100 letters of support from existing and new donors, while the number of visitors to its website, worldlandtrust.org, increased by 400 per cent. The group claims subscriptions to its newsletter also rose.

Although charities continue with their goat campaigns, some – including Christian Aid – have pledged that not all the money raised will necessarily be used to buy goats.

Oxfam said it 'took the World Land Trust's points seriously and made sure their concerns were acknowledged by [its] environmental policy experts'.

Simon Barnes, who writes The Times' Wildlife Notebook, says: 'Adopt a Goat was a terrific alternative Christmas present. To suggest that this was in fact a bad idea was obviously exciting for journalists.'

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