Live goats for festive events

SINGAPORE - With the Year of the Goat around the corner, some places have been getting live goats - which has gotten some people's goat.

A temple, a university and even the Istana have asked for live goats to appear at their Chinese New Year events to add to the festive atmosphere.

But animal groups are against the practice, saying exhibiting the goats will stress the animals out.

The goats come from Hay Dairies, the only goat farm here which produces and sells fresh goat milk.

Since December last year, the farm has received more than 20 requests for its goats to be at Chinese New Year events. It has more than 1,000 goats of mixed breeds.

The farm's owner John Hay, 60, says inquiries have come from the Istana, Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple, community clubs and condominiums.

There have even been requests from families for live goats to be at their Chinese New Year gatherings.

Says Mr Hay: "As long as the event organisers have the necessary licence, I'm happy to send my goats to them."

He is not charging for the goats themselves, saying: "I don't want to make money from this. I just want everyone to be happy during Chinese New Year."

Event organisers who want to exhibit live goats have to pay $240 for transport costs and about $60 a goat to test if the goats are healthy enough for exhibition. They also require an animal exhibition licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

This year, the authority has received six applications to use goats for exhibition.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) applied for a licence last year. This was for a family day held about two weeks ago, organised by its school of electrical and electronic engineering.

The chair of the school, Professor Yoon Soon Fatt, says the school decided to have four goats on show to usher in the Year of the Goat. The family day was a success and feedback has been positive, he adds.

Ms Lek Yi Wen, 22, an undergraduate in NTU from the school of electrical and electronic engineering, was among those who took photos with the goats at the family day two weeks ago. "It was great to see live goats because we never get to do so in urban Singapore," she says.

"I also saw many staff members looking after the goats, so I'm sure their welfare was well taken care of."

Another group looking to exhibit live goats is the Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple. Its event coordinator, Mr Jeffrey Tan, 57, says the temple has gotten a licence to display three goats at its annual Chinese New Year celebrations this week.

The goats will be placed in a fenced-up area of 6m by 4m on the temple grounds and will be accessible to the public around the clock, except when the animals are asleep.

Says Mr Tan: "It's the Year of the Goat, so having live goats will make our celebrations more festive. Visitors can see and take photos with the goats. The temple will also provide hay so some visitors can feed the goats."

In previous years, the temple has exhibited live horses, dogs and cows for its Chinese New Year events.

But not everyone is happy with the exhibition of live goats. Animal welfare groups urge organisations not to exhibit the animals, saying it will cause stress to them.

Says Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA): "The SPCA does not subscribe to the idea of farm animals being transported in the heat and brought to crowded or noisy places for the purpose of display and close public interaction."

Adds Ms Noelle Seet, 35, head of campaigns at the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society: "It will undoubtedly be stressful for the goats to be transported to and displayed in a crowded area.

"It is the Year of the Goat and we hope that we celebrate this festive season by being kind to goats rather than cruel to them."

Mr Tan from Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple assures that the goats will be properly cared for at its event.

He says: "We'll make visitors line up to interact with the goats, so there won't be too many people to one goat.

"There'll also be a temple volunteer stationed at the area at all times to make sure the goats are all right and not mistreated."

This article was first published on February 15, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.