The Internet can be used for all kind of great things, and certainly one of those great things has been the development of the microlending sites – where users contribute a small amount of funds, and then the microlending site extends a small business loan (typically up to a few hundred dollars) to individuals to allow the recipient to get on their feet by starting or furthering a small business. However, one site is funding cockfighting, which is not only a horrible bloodsport, but is illegal here in the United States. Perhaps more astonishingly, the CEO of the site, Kiva.org, is justifying the practice!
When it becamse public knowledge that Kiva.org was funding cockfighting (we hasten to add they are funding it in countries where cockfighing it not illegal – but it is illegal here in the U.S. where Kiva is headquartered – and of course the ethical and moral issues remain), Kiva CEO Matt Flannery wrote a blog post in which he not only rationalized and justified the practice of funding cockfighting, but he also provided advice and guidance for fellow social funders. And that advice seems to be “if it’s not illegal where it’s going on, there’s no reason to not fund these activities.”
In fact, after a) admitting that he’s not a lawyer, and b) insulting his hometown newspaper for their denouncement of the practice (calling the SF Weekly a “sad weekly newspaper”), Flannery’s justification concludes:
“So is it legal to send money abroad to further cockfighting in another country? I think so. Foreign commerce must involve the shipment of items to the USA or from the USA. In the Kiva cockfighting case, no such movement occurred. Sure, a Peruvian MFI staff member promoted a cockfighting venture on a website served up in the USA. Sure, funds flowed from PayPal accounts of lenders in the USA. However, no items were shipped. Thus, if we take the Animal Welfare Act as our guide, it seems pretty clear that Kiva did not run afoul of the law.”
Is that really all that matters?
It seems to me that Flannery and Kiva take the “conscience” out of social conscience.
So, before you get involved with a microlending venture and contribute your own money to microfunding, you may want to check the organization of your choice out very well, and make sure that they don’t have a culture of funding activities with which you may not agree.
(Note: This story first came out several months ago, however we only just now ourselves heard about it. You can see the original mea no culpa article by Kiva CEO Matt Flannery in which he justifies Kiva’s funding cockfighting here.)
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