Animal rights group forced to call off Puck Fair demonstration
Threatening and abusive messages sent to Aran group, who protested use of live goat
Scenes from last year’s Puck Fair, with a large crowd watching as the King Puck is hoisted in Killorglin, County Kerry
The animal rights action network, Aran, which is calling on the Killorglin Puck Fair to take the live puck out of the entertainment, has abandoned plans to stage a demonstration against the use of the wild goat at this year’s festival on Monday.
The decision follows a number of threatening and abusive approaches by phone and by email. One of the most abusive calls from a man, quite possibly inebriated, had its origins in the USA. As well as using strong language, the man warned Aran that if their protestors came anywhere near the fair they would be beaten.
John Carmody, spokesman for Aran, said they had received numerous calls supporting their stance. However they did not wish to exacerbate the situation.
“We simply do not want to inflame matters,” Mr Carmody said.
Aran were handing over a video of the last year’s use of the goat to the Department of Agriculture and were maintaining their stance, against the background of legislation, that the use of the goat has to end.
Mr Carmody also paid tribute to people who had called his members to support their stance, saying a lot of Kerry people too afraid to speak out were among the numbers who agreed with Aran.
Concerns about the goat’s capture and confinement are being raised against the background of the 2013 Animal Health and Welfare Act and a video of last year’s goat, caged and, it is claimed, frightened is being sent to the Department of Agriculture.
Mr Carmody says the goat is psychologically damaged by being placed in the midst of noisy drunken revelry and hoisted on a stand in a small cage for three days and no amount of veterinary attention will cure that.
The tradition of capturing a wild male mountain goat, and hoisting it over the town on August 10th dates back at least 400 years, with the first written record of the fair going back to 1613.
The goat is crowned by a young maiden chosen from the community, paraded around the town and then hoisted on a 60ft stand to reign for three days and three nights. Stalls line the streets and live music takes place each night in a festival, which has broadened in recent years into family events, street entertainment and craft fair.
With pubs open late, and tens of thousands of visitors each year, Puck Fair is estimated to be worth €7 million to Killorglin annually.
A spokeswoman for the festival said hundreds of years of tradition and legend surrounded Puck Fair and “the goat is the festival” and is well-treated.
This year’s King Puck is an all-white male goat. It was caught near Castlegregory in west Kerry some weeks ago and has been “acclimatising” to its environment.
Aran’s concerns span the range of the festival – the catching of a wild goat, parading it through the town and exposing it to noise and drunken revelry.
It believes the use of a live puck breaches “the five freedoms” safeguarded in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, including freedom from discomfort, pain, fear and distress “and freedom to express normal behaviour .”
Mr Carmody has said: “The puck is a wild animal who doesn’t understand the loud noise, bright lights, and thousands of people in front of him, and he certainly doesn’t understand being hoisted into the air and left there to dangle over a weekend.”
Tradition should never be used to justify animal suffering, Mr Carmody insisted: “No veterinary inspections will ease the psychological problems the animal will endure.”
Mr Carmody said documenting this year’s festival will lead to an accurate overview of the goat being used, and along with footage from last year, it will be presented to Department of Agriculture “with the hopes of maybe getting the goat out of any future puck fair.”
The Puck Fair festival begins on Monday, August 10th with a horse fair, and will end on Wednesday with fireworks and the taking down of the goat.