Police in British Columbia received a report of someone possibly stuck in a ravine repeatedly calling for out for help. When they arrived, they discovered the cries were coming from a mother goat calling for her babies from whom she was separated.
The person who heard the calls was worried that someone had fallen off a cliff on Quadra Island, off the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. “Further investigation revealed that the ‘help’ heard was actually a sad goat from neighboring goat farm,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on its website.
The farmer explained to the officers that the mother goat was crying out for her babies. “Officers did note on scene that the cries did sound similar to someone yelling for help,” the RCMP said. “Thankfully, officers confirmed all was well and nobody, besides the mama goat, were in any kind of distress.”
No laughing matter
The RCMP may have believed “all was well,” but the distress of animal mothers forcibly separated from their babies is real and widespread.
Producing dairy from animals including goats and cows typically involves removing babies form their mothers shortly after birth. This maximizes the amount of milk that can be extracted from the animal for human consumption.
For cows, the evidence shows that this separation causes anguish to both mothers and their calves. The calves may cry repetitively, become restless, and even lose their appetite.
Goats appear to be no different. In 2022, a video on TikTok captured baby goats crying out for their mothers at a livestock auction. Luckily for those goats, they were rescued by an animal sanctuary rather than sold to a farmer.
Goats may even become distressed at being separated from other goats with whom they have formed a friendship. In May 2023, police officers in Oklahoma, US, investigated another apparent person in trouble. Again, the cries they heard turned out to be from a goat who was separated from his friend.
Millions of animals in distress
The dairy industry is huge and widespread, meaning there are millions of animals enduring the heartbreak of separation from their families everyday.
In the US alone, there around 9.4 million dairy cows. In the UK, there is around 2.6 million. The global dairy goat population was around 218 million in 2017, and it is growing as demand for goat’s milk and cheeses rises.
Dairy farming is becoming ever more intensive, with fewer and larger farms producing increasing volumes of milk. Efforts to increase productivity on these intensive farms usually comes with a welfare cost to the animals. In the UK, the rise of “zero grazing” systems have been found to keep cows locked inside all day in barren sheds.
The calves, meanwhile, end up in the dairy industry, are sold to calf dealers and onto slaughter, or sent to be raised on farms until they are old enough to be slaughtered for beef.
On intensive goat farms, baby goats also suffer a dark fate. Undercover footage from an intensive goat dairy in the UK revealed that “surplus” baby male goats are killed on farm if they cannot be sold for meat. Female kids are raised to become part of the milking herd. They will be used to produce milk until they are five or six years old, then slaughtered.