Unwanted male goat kids die of neglect at farms in the Netherlands

Unwanted male goat kids die at farms in the Netherlands
Goat and a red barn, photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

“It’s not right to produce a life that’s unwanted, it’s disrespectful,” Lesley Moffat, the founder of the animal welfare foundation Eyes on Animals, says about the unwanted male baby goats in the goat industry.

Ever since they uncovered many dead goat kids on a goat fattening farm in the Netherlands three years ago, they’ve been investigating the welfare of goat kids.

Male goats can’t produce milk, and since the demand for goat meat is less than cow meat, their life is of less value to farmers. Moffat feels that farmers are responsible for the quality of their lives: “It should be calculated in their production. It’s shouldn’t just be, I’m producing cheese and milk, and the rest is not my issue or not my concern.”

“If you’re going to produce dairy, you have to be responsible for the quality of life for all of your animals, also the ones that are not producing milk,” she continues.

Male baby goats often receive insufficient colostrum, the crucial first milk from the mother, because farmers give it to the female new-borns. The males are often neglected and quickly become sick. In the Netherlands, over 30% of male kids die on fattening farms before making it to the slaughterhouse.

Solution is difficult
With her team, she’s looking for solutions to better the lives of these unwanted male goat kids. “At the moment, we don’t know if there’s a solution,” Moffat says. “Every system that we’ve investigated, even if the farmer is really good, and there are some good farmers, but there’s a lot of inherent problems that we just can’t solve.”

“Maybe, if we as a culture don’t eat goat meat, we also shouldn’t be drinking goat milk and eating goat cheese,” she offers as a possible solution.

Consumers could also look into buying their products at farms that do try to give their animals a better life, Moffat adds. Eyes on Animals visits a lot of farms in Holland and puts the good farmers on their website. Some farmers do try to take care of all their animals, even if it costs them more time and money.

Forgotten males babies in the farm industry
In any dairy industry, cows and goats, the new-born males are seen as by-products and live an extremely sad life. The Netherlands is famous for being able to fatten male calves fast so they can be sold as veal to other countries. These male babies are transported from different countries when they’re just a few weeks old to the Netherland to be fattened and killed.

The Animal Reader talked to Lesley Moffat and Madelaine Looije from Eyes on Animals about the effects of the coronavirus on farm animals, heat stress, the veal industry, and lives of male goat kids.

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