In nature, goats live in mountain grasslands where they spend most of their time in social herds wandering the landscape and eating. Like cattle and sheep, goats are far-ranging ruminants, but unlike them, they browse rather than graze, meaning they prefer to nibble vines, shrubbery and weeds, rather than just chew grass. Goats are extremely inquisitive and intelligent animals, and will thoroughly explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They are also highly playful.
Goats have horizontal, rectangular pupils, an adaptation which increases peripheral depth perception and allows them to detect potential predators from far off without moving their heads and attracting attention. Goats are also very coordinated and can climb and hold their balance in the most precarious spots–they can even climb trees!
Female goats are well known as patient, highly nurturing mothers, which is why they are often used to foster orphaned or rejected lambs, calves and even foals. But on commercial and many small goat farms, they are cruelly torn from their very own babies.
Many ethically minded consumers, disturbed by the suffering of cows in the dairy industry, have switched to drinking goats’ milk under the mistaken belief that it is somehow more humane. In fact, every animal welfare problem that exists in the dairy cow industry inheres in the goat milk industry. Mothers and babies are cruelly separated after a few hours or days so the mothers’ milk can be taken. Female kids are used to replace slaughtered dairy goats, but males can’t produce milk – so they are either killed at birth and disposed of, or kept for young meat. And virtually all kid goats suffer at least one painful mutilation without anesthetic.
There is also a misconception that goats’ milk is healthier. In fact, goats’ milk has virtually the same lactose (sugar) content as cows’ milk, and has not demonstrated to be less allergenic. Like cows’ milk, goats’ milk also contains IGF-1 and oestrogen, both of which are known to promote the growth of cancer cells, especially in the breasts, prostate, lungs and colon. Goats’ milk is even higher in saturated fat than cows’ milk and generally contains an even greater amount of somatic cells (pus) than cows’ milk. (1)
Dairy from goats is therefore no more humane or healthy than dairy from cows. Both industries represent the relentless use and abuse of female reproductive organs, and both depend upon the systematic sabotage of motherhood.
On commercial goat farms and many small farms, male kids are either killed shortly after birth or kept for meat. If they are fattened for the meat trade, they are subjected to painful mutilations without anesthetic, including castration and disbudding.
Castration typically occurs within a week of birth and usually involves placing a tight rubber ring around the base of each goats’ testicles so the blood supply is cut off and the testes slowly shrivel and die. This procedure is very painful but the animals are given no pain relief either before or after.
On virtually all farms, large or small, both male and female goats are disbudded. Disbudding is removal of the sensitive, nerve-filled horn buds that will grow into horns, and is generally performed on goats with a searing cylindrical iron pressed thoroughly into the bud and surrounding flesh for 8-15 seconds per burn, with 2 or 3 burns per bud. This procedure is incredibly painful and traumatic for the kids, who scream throughout the process, yet is performed even on farms that consider themselves devoted to high animal welfare.
While the natural life expectancy of goats is 15-18 years (and some have been known to live as long as 24 years), when milk production drops, dairy goats are killed at only a few years of age, often for meat. (2)
Goats Raised For Meat
Meat goat production within the U.S. is growing, largely as a result of increasing ethnic populations amongst consumers. The most important ethnicities driving the demand for meat goats are the Hispanic, Muslim, Caribbean and Chinese populations. Each ethnicity demands a different product. Hispanic consumers prefer the cabrito, a young milk-fed goat with light-colored fat. Muslim consumers choose different ages and sizes of goats, depending on the occasion. But in all cases, Muslim consumers demand a goat slaughtered under the conditions of halal, and will often purchase live goats for home or religious slaughter. (3)
Animals killed halal (according to Islamic law) cannot be stunned or rendered unconscious before their throats are cut, which means that many animals—like the cow shown in this video—fight and gasp for their last breath, struggling to stand while the blood drains from their necks. (4) They suffer tremendously.
Cruel Commercial Slaughter
When goats arrive at industrial slaughtering facilities, they are unloaded, weighed, and placed in a restraining chute. Before being slaughtered, each animal is supposed to be rendered unconscious according to the Humane Slaughter Act. The goal is to stop brain activity before the throat is slit, without stopping the heart. If the heart stops before throat-cutting, then it can’t pump blood and send it gushing from the wound, and the animal would take a longer time to bleed out fully. The tool most commonly used for cow, goat and sheep stunning is a captive bolt pistol, which is placed firmly against the animal’s forehead and fired. A long, sharp bolt penetrates the brain, causing the animal to spasm uncontrollably, and then collapse. The animal is then shackled by a hind leg and raised off the ground, then is cut from the stomach to the throat and left to bleed. Far too often, as is repeatedly documented, the animals regain consciousness due to improper stunning and have their throats slit, or are even skinned and dismembered, while still fully awake. (5)
According to USDA slaughter statistics, nearly 1 million goats were slaughtered for their meat last year in the U.S. alone. (6) But reports from industry experts indicate that much of the slaughter of goats for meat is not included in federal slaughter figures, which more likely represent only 50 to 60 percent of actual goat slaughter within the U.S. The goat industry in the U.S. is still in its infancy, and a large market for live or fresh-killed goats falls outside of federally inspected slaughter plants. Whether goats are purchased directly from the owner for “backyard slaughter,” butchered by the producers and sold fresh to the buyer, or slaughtered in ritual religious facilities, much of the slaughter of goats for meat is not included in the federal slaughter statistics. (7)
We have no biological or nutritional need for goats’ milk or flesh; and in societies where we have access to ample plant-based food options, our continued consumption of these animals is merely for pleasure. This consumption, and indeed the entire animal farming industry, is predicated on heartless theft–theft of mothers’ milk from other animals, theft of babies for whom the milk is intended, and theft of life from babies and mothers alike. If you believe that it is wrong to harm and kill animals for pleasure, then you should not consume meat or dairy products. Please visit our Milk Myths page to learn more about the humane and health myths of dairy, and visit our Vegan Nutrition page for tips and links to delicious, healthy vegan foods.