Animal rights activists have sharply criticised plans to cage a captured goat at this year’s Puck Fair in Kerry.
A wild male mountain goat will be crowned King Puck and paraded around Killorglin later this morning as part of the opening day of the annual festival.
The animal will then be placed in a cage on a high stand in the town square for three days.
Organisers say they have strict protocols in place to protect the goat’s welfare.
However, activists argue that the tradition is traumatic for the animal involved.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Bernie Wright of the Alliance for Animal Rights described the caging as “barbaric” and “archaic”.
“This serves no purpose other than to titillate and entertain humans because they can’t think of anything more humane to do,” she said.
Ms Wright urged organisers to free the animal and arrange an alternative form of entertainment.
“Why can’t they put a human up to show some skills? If someone wanted to go up [to show they can] survive up there, and raise money for the homeless, I’d say fair enough.
“They’ve a choice in whether they go up or not. These animals are not ours to use.”
King Puck 2015 chews on some food after spending his first night over Killorglin | Photo: RollingNews.ie
Declan Mangan, chair of Puck Fair, told the programme that the goat will be well looked after during the festival.
Concert stages in the town have been designed with the goat in mind, with speakers angled away from the cage, he added.
"Each day, he’s taken down and walked around. He’s fed and watered.
"His bedding is changed to make sure he’s comfortable."
Mr Mangan said the goat is also examined daily by a vet from the Department of Agriculture.
"We think it’s a tradition that’s unique to the town of Killorglin," he said of the animal’s caging.
"I think it’d be very remiss of our generation to throw away such a unique tradition."
Meanwhile, animal rights group ARAN is to stage a protest in the town ahead of the King Puck parade this morning.
Its members plan to wear blindfolds while holding signs saying "Killorglin Puck Fair: Blind to Animal Suffering".
"We are delighted the Puck Fair is still taking place but saddened that a real animal must remain as part of this tradition," John Carmody of ARAN said.
"People’s opinions on using animals for entertainment is changing fast in this day and age, and to that end, we urge the organisers to commit to taking the live animal out and replacing him with something more artistic and humane.”
The group called off plans to hold a demonstration at last year's Puck Fair after receiving abusive phone calls and emails.
The festival began this morning with a horse fair and will end on Friday with fireworks.