Puck off! | 

Kerry’s Puck Fair slammed as ‘cruel’ and ‘barbaric’ for goat-catching tradition

Traditionally, the Puck Fair, which takes place each year on August 10, 11 and 12, sees a wild goat spend the bulk of its time on 50ft stand overlooking the town.

An image promoting the event on the Puck Fair's Facebook page

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Controversy is raging over this year's Puck Fair which is currently taking place in Killorglin, Co Kerry as people have taken to social media in their droves to slam the event.

Traditionally, the Puck Fair, which takes place each year on August 10, 11 and 12, sees a wild goat spend the bulk of its time on 50ft stand overlooking the town.

The ‘puck’ is looked after by a team of goat catchers, while a local vet monitors the goat’s health and he is given a full health check before his coronation and being hoisted on the stand. As well as being fed, the goat is inoculated.

However, while the popular event, which is at least 400 years old and his returned after a three-year gap, draws in thousand visit each year, there has been an increasing level of objection to the practise, with many condemning it as cruel and barbaric.

Concerns were first raised about the welfare of the puck goat in 2015 when an animal rights organisation said the goat’s capture and confinement was wrong under the provisions of the 2013 Animal Health and Welfare Act.

Aran, the Animal Rights Action Network, said their concerns spanned the range of the festival — the catching of a wild goat, parading it through the town and exposing it to noise and drunken revelry.

7-8-2022: Goat catcher Pat Cahill and his son goat warrior Matthew (10) pictured with a wild mountain goat captured near Ireland's highest mountain Carrauntoohill

And more than 20,000 people have signed an online petition to stop Puck Fair, describing the tradition as “unacceptable”.

This week, the fair’s spokesman Declan Falvey was forced to defend the festival on air after animal rights activists and others expressed concern for the goat whose coronation was due to place on Wednesday in the middle of a heat wave.

Callers to Joe Duffy’s LiveLine expressed their anger at what some called the ‘barbaric’ practise of catching a goat and raising it above the town for three days.

But Mr Falvey told Liveline: “The water is changed on a regular basis and a local farmer sources the best of heather. We will make sure we will look after the goat.”

However, callers to the programme said goats were not able to cope with heat and they panted a lot and would be unable to drink.

Mr Falvey insisted “this is a wild mountain goat, used to living on heights”.

“We will do everything in our power and if it means keeping him down we will keep him down,” he said.

The goat was a hardy animal and a balmy breeze on high would keep him cool, he added. In recent years, the cage had been made bigger and Mr Falvey said they will "uphold the tradition as best we can".

However, that has not prevented a stream of messages to the fair’s Facebook page in which people have expressed their disgust and anger at the ongoing practise.

“So let me get this right,” one person has posted. “A goat is taken from the wild and its herd.

“Put in a cage and suspended 50ft in the air for 3 days and nights. Meanwhile revellers are having a great time below and plenty of noise day and night. I hear there will be a fireworks display also.

"The terrified, stressed out to the last goat has to endure all this and you feel this is ok? Is there no artist that could make a sculpture of a goat for use instead of the poor goat? It's 2022 now...we are not back in the stone age. Feel free to correct me if I am misled on the details.”

Goat catcher Pat Cahill and his son goat warrior Matthew (10) pictured with a wild mountain goat who will be 'King Puck' at the annual Puck Fair in Killorglin

Another added: “Yep, totally barbaric and something I've refused to attend for that very reason, tradition or not it's not OK to treat any animal this way more especially in this heat.”

One commented: “What a shame that you have to spoil what appears to be a wonderful, traditional fair with an act of animal abuse. The programme for each day looks interesting but the animal cruelty cancels out the rest to me.”

Another person added: “In in this day and age, it is absolutely barbaric to suspend an innocent animal in the air for three days and nights at any time, but especially in this heat.

“No tradition justifies this cruelty and it does nothing to enhance the fair or the reputation of those living in the area and organising it. In the interest of animal welfare you would have far more support if you take the goat down now. Why are the ISPCA allowing this blatant cruelty?”

One stormed: “Shame on the lot of ye. To hang a goat up in the air in a metal cage is beyond barbaric, ye should be ashamed. Such cruelty is shocking.”

There were few other voices defending the festival as one retorted: “Major keyboard warriors after listening to Uncle Joe yesterday, the majority of whom didn't have a clue about the fair’s existence until yesterday ..welcome to 2022, an era of being offended by things you didn't realise existed until two minutes ago.”

The goat will be led back into the mountains after the festival which includes music, dancing and fairs ends tomorrow.

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