Heifer International 75 years ago: Dan West’s Rationale for the Heifer Project

In a draft of an article to be submitted to Christian Century magazine 75 years ago this month (February 1944), and before any Heifer Project shipments had been made, Heifer International founder Dan West wrote his rationale for “Heifers for Relief.”

“Little children,” he began, “are starving in Europe and elsewhere. They are not to blame, but they have to pay…. How many will have to starve because of the hardness of our hearts nobody knows….

“Reconstruction is in the air now…. But some day the giving from America and other favored countries will stop. Europeans must carry their own burden as soon as they can. Mr Lehman [Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration/UNRRA] has been stressing the need for helping people to help themselves.

“One government official said there is no question about the need, nor is there any question about where the supply of dairy cattle is to be found. It’s America chiefly.

“After some investigation with officials of the United States Department of Agriculture, the Brethren Service Committee approved a plan for setting aside good dairy heifers, either purebred or grade, to be sent to needy countries in Europe–perhaps elsewhere, whenever priorities and shipping allow. Since last May a number of them have been ear-tagged. Local farmers take care of them, furnishing the labor and in some cases the feed. In other cases, city Dunkers [Brethren] and others who cannot furnish shelter or care [for the animals] pay the feed bill. A good deal of interest has been developed on the part of children, young people, and adults in the project. City children don’t know cows but they can easily imagine that milk can make the difference between life and death for hungry babies….

Faith, the first heifer donated, her owner Virgil Mock (left), and Claire Stine who raised her (right). Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

“How can we get [the heifers] to the right place at the right time?” Dan asks. “Before every new step the Brethren Service Committee has consulted with U.S.D.A. officials at Washington, but this is still an unsolved problem. Because the Allied Shipping Pool has not announced its policy nor has UNRRA, no one can promise finally that the cattle which are ready here will certainly be delivered there…. [W]hatever is done must be done partly on faith, but that faith must not be a substitute for avoidable ignorance.

“If my children were starving to death I would be glad for somebody to act on faith to try to get food to them…. When one considers that a good average cow can give ten quarts a day or more…one cow may become the means of saving the lives of ten children….

“How will [the animals] be distributed? That too is an unsettled question….

“Why do it?
1. Christians cannot let people starve anywhere on the earth without trying to help them….
2. We cannot begin to build a world until we learn how to get elemental foods to the right place soon enough.
3. Until we find a better substitute for milk, cows will be important in rehabilitation.
4. There has been a good deal of talk of church union with not too much success…. Maybe this will help.
5. As one Lutheran pastor imagined it: ‘This looks like a good chance to bring the city Christians and the country Christians together. The city Christians can furnish the money for the feed and the rural Christians the calves and the care. When they are ready to go they can all come to a rural church, the city folks, the country folks, and the calves. They can all worship together and then send the calves off to save life elsewhere–the Christians of America can save Europe.'”

Next post: Heifer Project’s 1st and 2nd seagoing cowboys

5 thoughts on “Heifer International 75 years ago: Dan West’s Rationale for the Heifer Project

  1. Thank you for the picture and history. This reminds me that I visited a major donor in Atlanta. After a brief sharing of our knowledge of Heifer he asked, “You don’t know who I am do you?” I knew I was in trouble but quickly recovered and realizing who he was said, “You are Claire Stine”. The visit took a turn as I learned of his experience raising “Faith” the first Heifer received. He later spoke at a celebration of the shipments made out of Mobile AL. Good Memories.

    Bill E Beck

    On Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 3:02 AM The Seagoing Cowboys wrote:

    > Peggy Reiff Miller posted: “In a draft of an article to be submitted to > Christian Century magazine 75 years ago this month (February 1944), and > before any Heifer Project shipments had been made, Heifer International > founder Dan West wrote his rationale for “Heifers for Relief.” “” >

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  2. I remember the Heifer Project days and have lots of stories about events related to that time. That was a childhood like no other that I’ve ever heard about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And the farm of Roger and Olive Roop was where the first heifers were gathered. That from 1944-1948 3600 heifers gathered at our farm and then shipped to war-torn Europe. They made the dream become a reality. Lest we not forget their role.

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    • Your family certainly has a rich Heifer legacy, Pat. There’s one point I need to clarify, however. The heifers for the first shipment to Puerto Rico in 1944 were gathered at the Nappanee stockyards in Indiana and shipped out of Mobile, Alabama. The heifers for the second shipment to Puerto Rico in May 1945 were gathered at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. After World War II ended, and the Heifer Project began shipments later that year to Europe in cooperation with UNRRA is when the Roop Farm became a collection farm. A very rich legacy, to be sure.

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