The Puck Fair committee has submitted a response to an IrishCentral article published on August 5 about the concerns of some animal rights activists over the capture and confinement of the live goat featured in the 400-year-old festival.

Aran, the Animal Rights Action Network, have raised concerns about the goat’s capture and confinement against the background of the 2013 Animal Health and Welfare Act. According to the article, the organization says their 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 behavior.”

Aran spokesman John Carmody said that festival goers should “get with the times and take the puck out of the Fair.”

Here is the full statement by the Puck Fair committee on King Puck’s Welfare:

“The welfare of the goat is of utmost importance to all involved in organising Puck Fair, an event and tradition that has been in existence for more than 400 years. We have strict protocols in place to ensure this welfare and they are overseen and checked by an independent Veterinary Surgeon.

“The goat chosen each year is brought down from his mountain farm and paddocked in a farmyard three weeks before the Fair to ensure he becomes familiar with his handlers and acclimatised to people.  By the start of the fair he is well used to interacting with people at close quarters.

“At the initial stage the goat is examined and inspected thoroughly by a vet who determines that the goat is in good health. The vet issues a certificate of health to that effect.  

“On the day of the coronation King Puck is once again examined by a vet before being brought in a controlled manner in a strictly stewarded parade to the Goat Stand on the main square. Members of the public are behind barriers, a minimum of five metres from the stand, as the coronation takes place.

“The Goat is not, as claimed, hoisted and left alone for three days on the stand. King Puck is placed on his platform at 6pm on August 10th and removed from the stand at 6pm on August 12th – 48 hours later. 

“During that time he is checked on regularly to ensure there is adequate space, food and water by his handlers and he is examined daily by a certified vet. The cage has also been extended this year to allow five inches of standing room between roof and its horns and there is guaranteed 24 hour emergency veterinary cover is in place, should any unforeseen issues arise.

“The Puck Fair committee has always been to the forefront of animal welfare, ensuring a safe and secure environment for the hundreds of animals on sale at both the horse fair on August the 10th and Cattle Fair on August 11th. 

“The evening concert stages are specifically designed to ensure the Goat is not affected. Special angled speakers are used at all times to ensure the spread of sound does not reach the goat. It is ludicrous to suggest that a mountain goat would have a problem being out in all weathers and patently ignorant to suggest he is afraid of heights!

“Before the puck returns to the wild he is again examined by a vet, and last year’s vet confirmed there was no physical or psychological damage in his expert opinion.

“Puck Fair is not in breach of the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare...

1. Freedom from pain, injury or disease: The Puck is regularly inspected pre, during and post Puck fair and there is 24 hour emergency veterinary cover in place, should any unforeseen issues arise.  Last year’s vet reported that the Puck he examined before and after the fair was physically and psychologically unchanged from his experience, before being released back into the wild, post Puck.

2. Freedom from hunger and thirst: The goat is removed from the height throughout the day and has ad-lib access to food and fresh water.

3. Freedom from discomfort:  The goat is provided with dry bedding that is adequately drained and also sheltered from the elements.  It also has adequate room to move and turn, unrestrained in its enclosure, without fear of injury.

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour. The issue of isolation has caused concern in the past. However research shows that puck goats are generally solitary animals. They do not join females and young until mating season in October. 

5. Freedom from fear and distress:   Firstly goats are accustomed to heights, and we ensure prior to the fair that the goat is appropriately socialised with human contact and ambient sounds. In the weeks leading up to the fair the goat is hand fed by the goat catcher, and positioned at a height from the fair that sound engineers have assessed will not affect him.  The vet has certified that the goat has not previously shown any signs of fear or distress.

“While we respect people’s views in relation to Animal Welfare, we understand that an organisation that wants animal consumption banned, the wearing of leather outlawed and claims that “all dog breeders are bad breeders” is never going to be convinced that King Puck is indeed treated like a King. 

“He is, and we are happy for the Department of Agriculture to have an audience with him at any time.”

The Puck Fair festival will be held from August 10-12 in Killorglin, Co Kerry. 

The goat king of Puck Fair is a centuries-old tradition, but some animal welfare advocates are crying foul.