Policy Submissions

 

 

Submission to The European Committee of the Regions

DRAFT OPINION

Commission for Natural resources:  

By the Old irish Goat Society 22 June 2017

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Submission to the Draft

3rd Irish National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017 to 2021: 

By the Old Irish Goat society 20 Jan 2017

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Conservation | Heritage | Old Irish Goat

 

The Old Irish goat has largely been lost sight of as it is extinct in domestication and survives only as a feral animal that is often camouflaged in herds of mixed and mongrel type.  The Old Irish goat, known historically as ‘the poor man’s cow’, was by virtue of it's hardiness a crucial component in Ireland’s farming past. 

This indigenous landrace breed exudes character and is celebrated in Irish folklore, tradition and song. Despite its revered place in history the Old Irish Goat stands at the precipice of extinction. For centuries the Old Irish Goat was the only breed of goat to be found in Ireland. It developed over time to become a highly adapted local breed, physically matched to our climate and the style of animal husbandry. It was a dependable and productive breed which required little attention and provided milk, meat, skin and fibre on meagre and marginal land.Image courtesy of the Maggie Land Blanck Collection

However, as has occurred throughout Europe, the Old Irish Goat was supplanted by modern, improved domestic stock.  ‘The flourishing of intensive livestock production systems which utilize a narrow range of breeds has contributed to the degradation of the animal genetic resources and the marginalization of the traditional livestock production ones, leading many breeds to a risk of disappearance (FAO, 2009). So far, the greatest loss of genetic resources occurs in Europe (16 out of the 19 extinct goat breeds worldwide)….(Rosa Garcia et al. 2012).

The Interlaken Declaration on Animal Genetic Resources already recognized the existence of serious gaps and weaknesses at national and international level which prevented an efficient inventory, monitorization and characterization of the animal genetic resources, hindering their sustainable use and conservation, and financial resources and long-term support at national and international level were urgently demanded (FAO, 2007). We do not observe a much greater progress nowadays….(Rosa Garcia et al. 2012)Goat genetic heritage is seriously threatened … especially for remote areas which hold an outstanding reservoir of livestock diversity adapted to the local conditions…(Rosa Garcia et al 2012).

Being highly adapted to the Irish climate and landscape, their genetic code is in essence a stored alternative to highly bred specialist goats which are generally more susceptible to disease and harsh climate.

 

The King Puck Paradox (by Seán Carolan 29-Jan-2014)

Reminiscent of the Great Irish Elk, the stately silhouette of an Old Irish Goat is a sight that may soon fade into the Irish night sky, never to return.Celebrated annually for its kingly status, a cursory observation of the male Old Irish goat reveals hiskinglike persona. The face is embellished with a long beard, oversized side-burns and flamboyant coiff, ostentatiously adorned with a mantle of impressive horns. His regal image is completed, by an extraordinary coat of long hair and striking displays of strength and conflict. The matriarchal females have a more delicate frame, their lineage, is the social thread of the herd. Collectively, they demonstrate marvellous agility, vivid colours and distinct patterning. These profuse physical and communal attributes combine to make them a most fascinating and visually enthralling part of our natural and cultural heritage. Observed as such by Praeger himself; they fit in so naturally among the gnarled rock, and mount a miniature Matterhorn with such regal king-of the castle air! Why the absurd head and the profusion of angles all over the body should make goats either picturesque or amusing I am not sure, but undoubtedly they are both’. Despite their lofty appearance they paradoxically occupy the humblest of spaces in Irish folk memory.Remembered as ‘the poor man’s cow’ they provided hair, hide, meat and milk, from the meagre-ist of ground, to the mostimpoverished of people.

In truth, their celebrated kingly status is now utterly diminished. Their once vast mountain realms, colonised, by larger, more proliferate, British Alpine, Swiss Toggenburg, Sannen and British Dairy goats. Swamped by the stealthy onslaught of improved bloodlines, assimilated into herds of foreign origin and ambushed by mass culls, they have retreated from their former strongholds, their ‘royal’ bloodline ironically usurped by a rabble of mongrel goats. The Old Irish goat, in its pure form, vividly exemplifies authenticity and uniqueness, attributes central to both heritage and tourism. When coupled with their physical appeal, their potential as an iconic attraction, similar to that enjoyed by the highland cattle of Scotland, is apparent. However, it is their value as a genetic resource, their story and their capacity to tell our story that is of crucial importance.

The breed has helped us through the most trying of times. To allow those remaining to be crossbred out of existence would be a national calamity. To stave off such an unfitting end would involve unprecedented effort. Whatever the outcome, it is imperative that the task be taken up and documented, raising the prospect of a story of decline and hopefully return as an authentic icon of Irish heritage.

View Trailer ‘The Chance To Survive’ http://bit.ly/ChanceToSurviveOIGS 

© Old Irish Goat Society

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