I just had time to lean back out of the way and the wheels went over my foot. It also went over my camera bag but somehow did not smash the lens. A little surprised but otherwise unhurt, I turned towards the goat and rider which trundled its way back on track. The goat was feisty but hardly distressed and there was no other damage done.
Animal Lib has been concentrating on northern NSW and has been successful in closing down three goat races. Bundarra had to end its goat race due to adverse publicity. Lightning Ridge has also replaced its Easter goat race with a big dig for opals in the main street. The last straw was a Today Tonight report of 21 October 2011 which was a grab of selected crashes at a NSW country meet in Woolbrook. The Channel Seven report appealed to “think of the children” mentality while also making itself the story. The footage showed safety and wellbeing could be improved at Woolbrook (there was no examples of pulling goats by the horns in Roma). But the report did not prove Animal Liberation’s claim it was “barbaric and cruel”.
However the taint of such publicity is now affecting Roma. One of the major Easter in the Country sponsors is threatening to pull out because of the goats. Easter in the Country is as a not for profit organisation. Unpaid volunteers spend 12 months getting ready for the next event and rely almost totally on sponsorship. They get little financial support from Council (mostly in kind) but bring a lot of tourist dollars to Roma and the region.
The Easter in the Country committee knows the goat races are a drawcard and believes its goats are treated safely and humanely. I saw no evidence to the contrary today (my careless moment aside). Yet they cannot deliver a festival without sponsorship and unless a generous patron can be found that does not believe goat racing is cruel, the practice is unlikely to continue in 2013.
The sponsors who don’t condone goat racing are hypocrites. Animal welfare is not their primary concern. If it was they would also have objected to other Easter in the Country events such as horse racing, bull ride and rodeo. The real reason is possible negative public relations coming from the association between the company and a national media story about cruelty.
Perhaps the future will prove me wrong and goat racing will go the way of bear baiting and fox hunting, despite our collective atavistic appetite for animal sports. Seeking a halfway house, Roma could perhaps take its solution from overseas. London has its annual Oxford versus Cambridge goat race, but these goats fly solo, unencumbered with carts or riders. Oxford lost last year due to its goat slowing down to do a poo. Oxford apparently gained such revenge when it won the inaugural stoat race. I hope no-one tells Animal Liberation.