Excuse me while I check the calendar. Yes, just as I thought – it’s 2022. For a while I imagined we’d gone back a few centuries to a time when animals were fair game to be treated as humanity saw fit.
It’s a natural mistake to make an annual spectacle during the Puck Fair season that’s bizarre and grotesque enough to appear in one father ted episode is played. A captive mountain buck is crowned King Puck, paraded through the streets of Killorglin and hoisted 15 meters above the town square, where it is perched on a platform for three days and two nights. All in the name of the much-abused term tradition.
This year, the goat has been given a temporary pardon amid growing public concern fueled by status yellow high-temperature warnings – common sense and decency prevailed yesterday on the second day of what would normally be a three-day term. But the wild beast should never have been placed in such a position.
Year after year, the Puck Fair Committee is allowed to cage a goat and enforce its participation in a series of peculiar rituals: a coronation by Queen Puck (a young girl), a procession through town with cheering onlookers, and music blaring over a public address System followed by the ceremonial elevation. Meanwhile, the crowds below carouse and drink into the wee hours thanks to license extensions. It is as far away from the goat’s natural habitat as possible.
A more humane and creative approach needs to be found to bring a goat into Kerry Faire, believed to be Ireland’s oldest faire and having been going on for at least 400 years, without harming a wild animal separated from its flock. The Puck Fair has nothing to do with capturing and imprisoning goats — animals weren’t brought to earth to add some semen to a Killorglin jamboree.
Treating a wild creature this way is far from civilized at the best of times, but especially during a heat wave. The goat is locked in a metal cage on a metal stand – and metal is known to be a conductor of heat, absorbing heat. The rationale is tradition, entertainment and promotion of the economy in the city.
You don’t have to be an animal rights activist to worry about this. How does it make family fun how it’s billed? Organizers insist the goat will be treated like royalty, emphasizing how a vet will check on its health. To be fair, the goat was lowered from its perch yesterday morning on the recommendation of the vet.
It is both legal and traditional, of course, and the goat is always released upon the enormous honor bestowed on it by the citizens of Killorglin. But traditions and customs change to reflect the changing times. It’s called progress. Is it really necessary to use a live goat? Why not hold an annual competition to design a goat sculpture or artwork? Why not replace King Puck with a straw or wood or paper mache replica, or commission an imaginative Macnas extravaganza?
Puck Fair’s sponsors include Kerry County Council – which means public money goes to this festival, which depends on treating a goat in an uncharitable way. In fact, some might see this as a misuse of public funds. The other sponsors, which include the beverage companies Guinness and Rockshore, Astellas Pharma and the fintech company Fexco, are not looking too good either. Note to self: avoid them unless there is a change in goat policy.
This festival could be a magical community summer festival. It probably dates back to pagan times, associated with the Celtic festival of Lughnasa and the start of the harvest season – the goat is an ancient symbol of fertility. Instead, in its current incarnation, it tastes primitive. The stance of those defending it boils down to this: yerra, it’s just a little crazy and isn’t fed the goat the best heather and if they only knew what was in store for them the goats wouldn’t be in line for the privilege , and they don’t like heights anyway.
When concerns were raised about the goat earlier in the week, the fair’s spokesperson insisted it would be well cared for and a local vet would be monitoring its health. There was talk of amusing the awakened crowd by providing the creature with a fan. Okay, I made up the part about cheering up the woke crowd — but you couldn’t invent the sheer stupidity of someone suggesting one fan is enough. Temperatures were well into the 20’s when the goat went on show. Whataboutery is common from those who think Goat and Kerry carnivals are a good idea – what about battery farming, they say. But none of that is a good idea.
In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry said it was aware of the public debate and protecting animal welfare was a priority. That sounds suspiciously like word salad. Something more proactive is needed. Greyhound racing has a mixed reputation but Shelbourne Park in Dublin canceled its meetings last night and tonight due to the heatwave.
In an increasingly animal welfare-conscious environment, such topics are becoming more and more relevant. While King Puck is just a goat, Puck Fair talks about how we treat animals. Does Secretary of Agriculture Charlie McConalogue have an opinion on the goat’s treatment? What about Tourism Ireland – is that a positive public image?
Small towns need our support and Killorglin clearly relies on Puck Fair’s traffic. It’s in nobody’s interest to rain on the pageant – let’s keep enjoying it, but without the live goat. Nothing is lost by his omission. Rather, there is something to be gained.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/king-puck-reprieved-in-heat-of-the-moment-but-they-really-shouldnt-be-using-a-live-goat-41906431.html King Puck spared in the heat of the moment, but they really shouldn’t be using a live goat