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Department of Agriculture says it is 'aware' of recent Puck Fair animal welfare controversy

The three-day festival began yesterday in Co Kerry.

File image of a wild mountain goat at Puck Fair, Co Kerry in 2008.
File image of a wild mountain goat at Puck Fair, Co Kerry in 2008.
Image: PA

Updated Aug 11th 2022, 9:45 AM

The goat has since been let out of the cage.

PROTECTING ANIMAL WELFARE is a “priority” for the Department of Agriculture, according to a statement around concerns about Puck Fair. 

The annual festival in Killorglin, Co Kerry is centred around the crowning of a King Puck – a wild mountain goat that spends three days and three nights in a pen on a tall stand overlooking the town.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said it is “aware of recent public discussion in relation to Puck Fair and the possible impact of a predicted heatwave on the welfare of the goat”.

A Status Yellow high temperature warning for Leinster and Munster takes effect at 12pm today.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue issued a statement in July urging farmers to protect livestock during hot weather conditions. 

The statement said the department “will be keeping the matter under review” and that protecting animal welfare “is a priority”. 

“The Department operates an animal welfare complaints hotline (01 607 2379); complaints are followed up by Department veterinary officers and/or other authorised officers,” the statement said. 

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

A spokesman for Puck Fair said on Tuesday that the goat may be given a fan to cool him down in the high heat. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Liveline this week, a campaigner who runs an animal sanctuary said it would be cruel to keep up the tradition of placing the King Puck on a 50-foot tall platform for the duration of the three-day festival.

“Would you feel okay being suspended in the air in some cage on a metal stand in these sweltering temperatures?” the campaigner from ARAN, the Animal Rights Action Network, said.

A spokesman for the festival, Declan Falvey, said that if necessary, the animal will be taken down if the heat gets too much and that the goat will be given a health check and well-looked after.

“The water is changed on a regular basis and a local farmer sources the best of heather,” Falvey said, adding that a fan will be in the cage this year.

He said that the cage had also been made bigger recently and insisted that “this is a wild mountain goat, used to living on heights”.

This year’s goat is white and brown and was captured from the the Reeks mountains near Kilorglin, as per tradition.

He will be fed and inoculated for the festival and veterinary inspections have already taken place according to organisers.

The goat will be led back into the mountains after the festival – which includes music, dancing and fairs – has concluded.

The event began yesterday and will run until tomorrow. 

The festival has evolved over the years to include a horse fair, street performances, musical acts and children’s entertainment. 

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