Goats are social butterflies. Goats enjoy spending time with other goats in small groups and are known for their ability to form friendships with other animals of all kinds. Much like the companion animals with whom we share our homes, goats can build emotional bonds with humans. They are as intelligent as dogs and have a reputation for being curious and adventurous. Sadly, these charming creatures are exploited in many ways in New Zealand.

The issues goats face

In New Zealand, goats face many welfare issues. Goats kept to produce milk are repeatedly impregnated so humans can consume their milk, only to have their babies taken away from them to be raised for the same fate, or to be killed.

Goats kept for their milk, meat or the fibre from their coats are typically confined in highly intensive indoor barns where they are not able to graze or roam freely outdoors.

Around Aotearoa, goats can also be seen at the end of short tethers on roadsides. Treated as nothing more than lawnmowers, these goats often lead lonely lives, exposed to the elements, sometimes without adequate water or food supply – all to maintain the grass and weeds that surround them.

Almost 170,000 goats were killed in New Zealand in 2019.

The goat milk industry is just as cruel as the dairy industry

Many people are shunning cow’s milk because of the suffering cows kept for milk and their calves experience, and some are replacing cow’s milk with goat’s milk. Unfortunately, the misconception that goats farmed for milk receive better treatment than cows is far from the truth.

Goats face the same issues as cows when kept to produce milk. Female goats are repeatedly impregnated, only to have their babies taken away so humans can consume their milk. Female kids grow up away from their mothers to eventually meet the same fate. Male kids are considered ‘waste’ products by the dairy industry, as they are unable to produce milk, and are usually killed within days of being born.

Goats kept for meat and hair fibre

As well as being kept for milk, goats are kept for their meat and fibre in New Zealand. Fibres sourced from goats include mohair (from angora goats) and cashmere. Shearing sheds are often fast-paced environments, where goats may be handled roughly and cut by the shearing handpieces. For sensitive and emotionally intelligent animals like goats, shearing can be a traumatic experience.

Painful husbandry procedures

Baby goats not killed at birth may undergo a painful and dangerous procedure called ‘disbudding.’ This practice is commonly carried out on goats that are to be kept for their milk, and involves removing the developing horn base at an early stage to prevent the horns from growing.

Disbudding techniques used include the destruction of the budding horn tissue with caustic chemicals; removal of the horn buds with a sharp knife or ‘scoop disbudder;’ and more commonly, destruction of horn tissue with a hot iron applied to the horn base.

Disbudding is a painful and traumatic experience for baby goats which can be legally carried out without pain relief on goats under the age of nine months. Deep skin tissue burns, infections, scarring and injuries can have long-term effects on the health of these sensitive and intelligent beings.

Credit: Goat Welfare New Zealand

Goats are not lawnmowers

If you have travelled in rural New Zealand, you will likely have seen goats tethered along the roadside or on the outskirts of farming properties. Goats are just as intelligent as dogs, and their inquisitive nature is shown by their constant desire to explore and investigate anything unfamiliar.

Tethered goats spend prolonged periods in one area with nothing to do but eat and sleep. It’s common to see goats tethered on their own. As highly social animals that naturally live in herds, this can be a lonely and tedious life for these sensitive creatures.

Dairy and your health

Despite what the dairy industry says, scientific studies show that we can get all the nutrients we need from plants. In fact, green leafy vegetables and legumes are some of the healthiest sources of calcium available.

More and more Kiwis are making the switch to plant-based versions of dairy products, and the options are endless!

Craving cheese and ice cream? Check out our dairy alternatives page for inspiration.

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