Cruel Fundraisers That Send Mixed Messages to Students

Fundraisers can bring a lot of opportunity to a school and its community, but an inhumane one can leave students with a lasting negative impression: that cruelty to animals is acceptable for personal gain. TeachKind regularly receives accounts from concerned members of school communities about the use of animals in fundraising events. By starting a conversation with your school, you can enlighten others and inspire them to keep compassion at the forefront when planning events. Read more about these six cruel fundraisers and the animal-friendly alternatives that should replace them.

Teachers: Please note that all the animal-friendly alternatives listed below can be held virtually or allow for social distancing to ensure the safety of your school community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Cruel Fundraiser: Donkey Basketball

Donkeys are patient, kind, intelligent animals. They can recognize the faces of animals they haven’t seen for years, and they feel pain and fear just as any other animal does. It’s not difficult to figure out that donkeys don’t enjoy playing in donkey basketball “games,” which involve students and adults riding on their backs while they play basketball and are surely terrifying and confusing for them. The lights, noise, and commotion of these events are extremely stressful for them (as is the travel involved), and they’re often kicked, shoved, and shouted at.

Donkey basketball fundraisers desensitize young people to animal suffering and send kids the dangerous message that it’s OK to abuse and take advantage of those who are weaker than they are. Children who are exposed to animal abuse are taught the dangerous lesson that cruelty is acceptable and that we have the right to exploit animals for our own entertainment—which can result in further animal abuse.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: Games Tournaments

Bingo is still a popular moneymaker, but popular games like Scrabble, Yahtzee, and mahjong are great for tournaments, too, and can be played in real time online using video chat tools like Zoom or Skype. Charge an entry fee and offer small prizes (donated by area merchants) for the winners.

2. Cruel Fundraiser: Pig-Kissing Events

Pigs are highly sensitive, perceptive, intelligent animals who excel at learning and understanding concepts. Social, playful, gentle, and loyal, they enjoy communicating with each other, building nests, and relaxing in the sun. At “pig-kissing” events, they are thrust into an unnatural and chaotic environment, surrounded by crowds of humans (whom they view as predators), and sometimes subjected to rough handling by excited participants. We have received reports that during such events, pigs have started shaking uncontrollably, urinated out of fear, and fled auditoriums in terror. Furthermore, students and other attendees are put at risk as well—pigs can potentially transmit pathogens, such as E. coli, salmonella, and H3N2v, to humans.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: Fashion Shows

Fashion shows are a fundraising staple and the perfect opportunity to promote cruelty-free alternatives to fur, leather, wool, and other animal-derived materials. Add a twist by having a theme and encouraging local aspiring designers.

3. Cruel Fundraiser: Squid-Throwing Events

Squids are cephalopods and are capable of experiencing pain. Just like dogs, cows, and chickens, they have complex nervous systems, try to escape from noxious stimuli, show physiological stress responses, and guard their wounds—their reactions when harmed fulfill the scientific criteria for pain.

Since cephalopods are known for their knack for problem-solving and feisty personalities, it’s no surprise that scientists declared in the 2012 “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” that they, like mammals and birds, experience the world consciously.

Squid-throwing events are as inhumane as they sound—students toss the dead bodies of these sensitive animals across gymnasiums. This cruelty could easily be avoided by using bean bags or balls instead.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: Kite Parades

If you have access to a large playing field, it would be perfect for a socially distant kite parade! Charge an entry fee, and give small prizes for the largest kite, the one with the longest tail, the one that stays up the longest, the one that flies the highest, etc. Events like this attract local media, so your group can get some publicity, too!

4. Cruel Fundraiser: Hosting Animal Exhibits

hands-on encounters teach humans dangerous lessons about interacting with wildlife

Imagine how strange and confusing it must be for wild animals who are taken into an unnatural environment like a school auditorium. Being gawked at and touched by hundreds of students only adds to their stress. Regardless of how long they’re kept in captivity, they can be severely distressed by the rigors of constant travel and public contact. Children can and do care about animals without having to touch and hold them. Using animals as interactive tools doesn’t foster respect—instead, children get the message that animals are ours to do with as we please.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: School of Rock

Host a virtual “Battle of the Bands” event. Different bands can perform in a competitive manner virtually, and the audience can choose their favorite. Charge a nominal entry fee to participants and an entrance fee to attendees. Offer a prize to the winning band. Be sure to publicize the event.

5. Cruel Fundraiser: Puppy Auctions

Animal companions require an emotional, physical, and financial commitment that can last up to 20 years. As such, responsible animal shelters follow stringent screening, educational, and contractual procedures when deciding whether to finalize adoptions and have rigorous follow-up protocols to ensure that animals are receiving adequate care. It’s likely that auction winners wouldn’t be evaluated for suitability and would possibly be overwhelmed by the responsibility involved. When young animals grow or the novelty wears off, they’re commonly bounced from home to home—where they’re confined to lonely rooms or backyards and virtually forgotten—or wind up at overburdened shelters. Please note that as a result of the homeless-animal overpopulation crisis (to which breeders largely contribute), more than 6 million animals enter our nation’s shelters annually—and half are euthanized for lack of good homes.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: Celebrity Auctions

Television news anchors, radio personalities, elected officials, and other local celebrities may be willing to have a virtual meal with a lucky winner or donate personal items, tours of their stations, etc.

6. Cruel Fundraiser: Cow Tongue Sporting Events

For a cow tongue sporting event to occur, a smart, social, and sensitive cow is slaughtered. Participants of these games usually find their “sports equipment” at a local butcher shop. They then play a game of football using the dead animal’s body part as the ball. Not only do these games desensitize students to the cruelty behind both the meat and dairy industries, they also promote a lack of respect for other living beings.

Animal-Friendly Alternative: Sponsored Athletes

Ask high school wrestlers, tennis players, and other athletes to recruit sponsors to pledge donations for each of their wins. Your school can promote games to encourage locals to cheer on the home team and raise much-needed funds at the same time!

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Want more information about cruel fundraisers and kind ones? 

Check Out the Animal-Friendly Teacher’s Guide to Fundraising!

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind