BAN THE HUNTING OF CRITICALLY ENDANGERED OLD IRISH GOATS AND AWARD THEM RARE BREED STATUS

BAN THE HUNTING OF CRITICALLY ENDANGERED OLD IRISH GOATS AND AWARD THEM RARE BREED STATUS

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Yasmin Fortune started this petition to Charlie McConalogue (Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The critically endangered Old Irish Goat has been a continual feature of our landscape for the past 5000 years and is a present day link with our ancient heritage. A beautiful, majestic creature with the males displaying long flowing coats, a long beard and the uniquely bending long horns - they are very much part of our ancient and present heritage. They are only found in remote mountain ranges. Shockingly, it is currently legal to shoot these beautiful critically endangered creatures. They have been shot to the point of near extinction as there is currently no legislation to protect them and  some hunters farmers and land management agencies are not distinguishing between them and hybrid and European breed feral goats which were introduced to Ireland in the last century. It will not be long before the ancient feral population is wiped out completely. In death each noble character with its distinctive coat pattern and majestic horns laments irreversible loss of a hugely important symbol of, and connection to, Ireland's ancient heritage.

Sadly the last of the Great Sugar Loaf/ Glen of the Downs/ Bellevue/ Little Sugar Loaf/ Bray Head Old Irish Goat herd was shot around 15 years ago - an iconic photo of an impressive herd balancing on the high cliffs of Bray Head overlooking the sea - their huge horns stretching out into the horizon is, along with the memories, all that is left. Their ancestors are mentioned in the ancient text 'Tógáil Bruidne Da Derga' - referring to a time 3000 years ago - the Three Heroes of Cuala follow a route over Glin Da Gruad (Glen of the Downs) and over Gabhar (the Irish word for Goat) - the placename in the heart of the Royal Site of the Ancient Kingdom of Cuala evidence of the high importance of the goats at that time. 

The rest of Wicklow's population are at high risk of being shot into extinction. The beloved Glendalough and Glendasan herds innocently follow the route of their ancestors over Cullentragh and into Glenmalure where they are at risk of being shot. The remoteness of the Glens of Wicklow and Kerry and other areas has resulted in our beautiful Old Irish Goat being shot without the knowledge or agreement of the People of Ireland.

The Old Irish Goat is part of our ancient heritage - a direct connection with our ancient past. Its importance in early Ireland is evident in its mention in our pre-Christian stories - referring to a time thousands of years into our past when they were a part of the everyday life of the Ancient Heroes of Ireland, and in the numerous ancient placenames (Irish gabhar - anglicised to gower) found around the country - often iconic landscapes, once considered sacred, where the feral goats are still found. In more recent history the goats feature in depictions of Irish heritage - such as the painting 'Connemara Goat Girl' and the countless references to the Old Irish Goat in the Duchas Schools Collection  - reflecting the huge role this iconic animal has played in offering food security for the people of Ireland. Beyond this the ancient Irish texts, some of the oldest written texts in Europe, have numerous references to the health benefits of goats milk and cures for various ailments which involve combining certain herbs with the milk of the Old Irish Goat. 

The Old Irish Goat is the quintessential symbol of the heritage of Ireland - it is our living connection with our Bronze-Age ancestors - it inhabits the Hills and Glens they inhabited, it features in the ancient stories, it has provided food security from ancient times right through to saving many lives during the famine, its milk featured heavily in traditional medicine to keep us healthy and well for thousands of years - it is a symbol of harmony in biodiversity and a connection with the most remote places of our beautiful landscape which were held sacred by our ancestors - we owe this majestic breed much and the least we could do is ensure its survival.

The Old Irish Goat Society (www.oldirishgoat.ie) has been doing wonderful work identifying distinct feral populations, setting the breed standard, producing information leaflets and presentations, and setting up breeding programmes lead by their President Raymond Werner (specialist on the breed with over 60 years of research experience), their vice chairperson Mayo based Sean Carolan and in conjunction with UCD, Trinity, Smurfitt Genetic Institue and Weatherby's DNA. 

The only way this ancient native endangered breed will survive is if it is illegal to hunt the feral population and they are awarded the protection of rare breed status - as the Galway sheep, the Droimeann, Dexter and Kerry Cattle and the Connemara Pony, the Kerry Bog Pony and the Irish Draught Horse enjoy. 

This will qualify the Old Irish Goat for protection from hunting, for inclusion in the Glas and other schemes to encourage its survival, and raise awareness of its importance amongst the general public to ensure its future for generations to come. 

As a feral rather than a wild or domestic population, the breed has fallen between the remit of either the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agricultire: this is unacceptable and provision for the NPWS to protect the ancient feral herds must be made alongside the provision for the captive-bred domestic population. If this issue is not addressed we will lose a massively important and irreplaceable part of our most ancient heritage. The feral herds which have existed in the wilds of our most remote Glens and Valleys for 5000 years must be protected from being shot into extinction under the watch  of this generation. 

Minister for Agriculture - please award the critically endangered Old Irish Goat Irish Native Rare Breed Status and ban the hunting of the feral population  and protect their future as a matter of urgency. 

Sincerely,

Yasmin Fortune

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