BAN THE HUNTING OF NATIVE RARE BREED STATUS OLD IRISH GOATS

BAN THE HUNTING OF NATIVE RARE BREED STATUS OLD IRISH GOATS

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

Update June 2022: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HAVE AWARDED THE OLD IRISH GOAT NATIVE RARE BREED STATUS - BUT WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP TO BAN THE HUNTING OF THE FERAL POPULATIONS OF THIS MAJESTIC BREED. 

Thank you to everyone who have already signed and shared this petition - almost 12000 signatures - which has since December 2021 independently supported the decade of hard work, scientific research and captive breeding programme of the Old Irish Goat Society - an amazing result this month with the Department of Agriculture awarding the Old Irish Goat Irish Native Rare Breed Status. In the last 17 years only 2 breeds have been given Rare Breed status - the Kerry Bog Pony and the Droimeann so it is a huge deal for the Old Irish Goat to be recognised like this. It is also a first - there were no feral herds to consider with any of the other rare breeds! So your support has helped change the future of a very unique breed indeed! 
However, the feral populations are still at risk of being wiped out from hunting, and culling, and these require further protection. 

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 possible to shoot these beautiful critically endangered creatures for €1000 a head in Wicklow and Kerry! Trophy Hunting Companies bring tourists from overseas to shoot our beautiful Old Irish Goats for a fee on private estates. Some organise hauliers to transport the goats from other areas to the private lands - other goats are herded in from commonage and National Parks by drone. The images of the slaughtered and often beheaded Old Irish Goats on the websites of these Companies are evidence that they are indeed targeting our ancient breed. Trophy Hunting in Wicklow and Kerry currently poses a serious threat to the survival of the breed, with evidence that Trophy-Hunting Tour Operators are being paid considerable amounts to facilitate the shooting of Old Irish Goats by International Tourists. As evidenced in their galleries the Old Irish Pucks are being shot at an unsustainably alarming rate. 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. Trophy Hunting is not part of our cultural heritage and is unwelcome amongst 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. 

This ancient heritage breed very recently, June 2022, were awarded Irish Native Rare Breed Status by the Department of Agriculture, as a result of community activism in the form of a decade efforts by the Old Irish Goat Society supported by this independent petition, only survive outside captivity is if it is illegal to hunt the feral population. The Old Irish Goat now enjoys the same Native 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 - it would be heinous to think of shooting any of these rare animals and the feral populations of the  Old Irish Goat must receive protection from hunting. 

The Old Irish Goat now needs protection from hunting to ensure its survival, and awareness needs to be raised 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 and Coillte 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 thank you for awarding the iconic and ancient Old Irish Goat Irish Native Rare Breed Status. Please ban the hunting of the feral population  and protect their future as a matter of urgency. 

Sincerely,

Yasmin Fortune

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