But it is also about Irish attitudes towards animal welfare. This is a serious subject, and it’s baffling Scannal often plays it for laughs and that the row about the caging of a live goat at Puck Fair in Killorglin during an August 2022 heatwave is presented as a bit of a joke – as signalled by the punning title.
The tone throughout is one of levity, often jarringly so. The controversy erupted in the summer of 2022, when animal-rights campaigners protested at the “hoisting” of a wild mountain goat in Killorglin as part of the Puck Fair festival. Temperatures were soaring – who, in good conscience, could leave an animal to swelter in such conditions?
It is not a trivial question, but Scannal chooses to illuminate the subject by pairing images of the goat with the song Hot in the City, by Billy Idol. There are also lots of shots of goats peering at a camera, comedy style – as if even the animal finds the entire affair hilarious.
It’s a shame RTÉ seems to see only humour in a story about animal abuse and ancient tradition finding its way in the 21st century. There were other fascinating threads it could pull on – such as the pre-Christian origins of the fair and Kerry’s sense of existing apart from the rest of the country.
There is the broader issue of how we treat animals in Ireland. As one campaigner points out, nobody would dream of suspending a dog in a cage for three days, yet we’ve been happy to do so with the Puck Fair goat for centuries.
Still, the producers deserve credit for interviewing practically everyone involved – with the glaring exception of the goat and of Joe Duffy, whose Liveline radio hour became the gladiatorial pit in which the two sides duked it out.
Everyone else, however, has their say. “Would you feel okay being suspended in the air in a small cage on a metal stand in these soaring temperatures?” says Catriona Lowry of the Hilltop Goat Sanctuary, in Co Clare, whose call to Liveline turned Puck Fair into headline news.
Amid a barrage of criticism, the organisers eventually agreed to take the goat down – only to put it back up again for a Declan Nerney concert in the town square. They believe they were victims of a pile-on.
“At the time I felt I was bushwhacked. There weren’t too many people coming in defence of where we stood,” says Declan Falvey, a local publican and chair of the festival organising committee.
The story has a happy ending – at least if you’re a wild mountain goat living in Kerry. Following intervention from the Department of Agriculture, the goat came down again. In the future, the animal will be up on its perch for just a few hours each year rather than for an entire three days.
“The vitriol we experienced we felt was unwarranted. We live in an age of cancel culture. Some of it was coming from ultra-right-wing organisations,” claims Declan Falvey. There’s so much to unpack here. What a shame that Scannal gives us the story as one of quaint country folk versus Joe Duffy – and milks it for chuckles.