A society advocating for the protection of the endangered Old Irish Goat has warned that the animal continues to be hunted for fun, leaving it at risk of extinction. 

Sinéad Keane, a volunteer with the Old Irish Goat Society, told Newstalk's Sean Moncrief that she is appalled that people are still legally allowed to hunt Old Irish Goats, adding that there is only a very small number of the species left. 

The goat is not native to Ireland but was brought over thousands of years ago by some of Ireland's earliest settlers. 

Keane told Newstalk that a number of hunters - mainly from the US or Eastern Europe - come to Ireland to hunt the animal as it is classified as rare and has a higher value on the market. 

She said the process is entirely legal under Irish law, adding that hunters don't need to avail or licenses or abide by quotas. 

"It’s not an illegal activity," Keane told Moncrief. "Today, you can go out and there are no quotas, you don’t need a hunting licence.

"There’s no season, there’s nothing; they’re taking advantage of an absence of legislation," she continued, adding that the goat is facing an "extinction crisis" in Ireland. 

Keane added that the goat faces a "worrying future" and there is little that the Old Irish Goat Society can do because there is no legal status for the animal in Ireland.

"It’s an animal that falls between the cracks; it is viewed and classified as a domesticated animal - even though it’s a primitive domestic animal, it came in with the neolithic settlers.

"I think that reductive type of classification is part of the reason it falls into the situation that it’s in now." 

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The society currently has a herd of 125 Old Irish Goats and has implemented a breeding program to help save them, Keane told IrishCentral. 

She said it is difficult to calculate the exact number of Old Irish Goats in the country because of the difficulties associated with identifying the animals. She added that there is also significant interbreeding between different breeds of goat, stating that indiscriminate culling and interbreeding have also placed the Old Irish Goat under threat. 

"The fact the goat has no legal status is really the main problem," Keane told IrishCentral. 

She added that the goat is an important symbol of Irish national identity, with dozens of locations across the country deriving their name from different Irish names for goat. 

"These animals are a symbol of Irish identity, Irish resilience, and the perseverance of the Irish spirit to survive." 

She pointed to a British Medical Journal article dating back to 1858 that highlighted the importance of goat's milk in staving off starvation during the Great Hunger.

"They helped us in some of our darkest days. Yet now we sell the right to shoot them even though they are on the precipice of extinction," Keane said. 

Keane encouraged anyone interested in learning about the Old Irish Goat to visit the society's center in Mulranny, County Mayo.