In previously years we have been given a goat for Christmas, or rather a card telling us that a goat has been given to family in sub-saharan Africa on our behalf. We assumed it was a helpful and somewhat original gift idea.

Today I read in the Evening Standard that these gifts might just be gimmicks to raise funds and might actually cause more damage to the areas in which they are given. Of course, we were aware of the damage that animals can do to the environment, but assumed that these kinds of problems were considered by the aid workers when they gave the animals out.

A spokesman for Oxfam said:

We strongly dispute these claims by Animal Aid and the World Land Trust. We work closely with the communities where we have worked for over 60 years to provide them with exactly what they need to lift themselves out of poverty. If you were to go to a village in Africa and ask the people what kind of difference these Christmas gifts make to their lives they would tell you that it makes a world of difference.

But their critics do not dispute this, what they say is that people of course want animals as gifts for short term gain, but is this is their best interests long term?