PETA have referred to goat petting as “goat yoga”. When they coined that phrase, they were referring to an Australian petting zoo which provided goat yoga sessions and which was facing 10 animal cruelty charges due to poor husbandry. The PETA report was published on April 16, 2018 on their website. On this occasion in March 2023, we can refer to Justin Steinmetz’s Pennsylvania farm and his attempts to monetise his goats by offering baby goat petting sessions a.k.a. goat yoga. There’s been a backlash against his commercialisation and exploitation of animals by animal activists.
And this story has a parallel. Justin Steinmetz must have been aware of the Carole Baskin campaign against tiger and lion cub petting in roadside zoos in America by the likes of Joe Exotic who is now behind bars for his attempt to murder Carole Baskin. He made a lot of money out of tiger cub petting zoos and Carole Baskin’s campaign led to the now famous, federal, Big Public Safety Act 2022. This act pretty well does away with big cats of private zoos in America.
Baby goat petting parallel
Justin Steinmetz must’ve seen a parallel between his desire to monetise his goats and tiger and lion cub petting.
He was touring Pennsylvania with his baby goats in a mobile petting zoo. But he has hit problems after “vegan extremists” accused the farmer of exploitation.
He was providing “baby goat snuggling” at two events in April. One was at a Vegan Festival in Macungie and the other at Veg Fest in Allentown.
However, retailers at the vegan vegetables claimed it was hypocritical for organisers to charge money for people to interact with animals.
Steinmetz email inboxes were flooded with unpleasant messages from animal rights activists and vegan ‘extremists’ about animal exploitation. He didn’t like it. He claimed that he does not in any way shape or form exploit animals.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Steinmetz Family Farm used social media to promote their goat petting sessions. It was going well because there was a big uptake in his offers for goat yoga but the tide has turned and for the first time in his memory his Facebook profile was receiving lots of criticism.
He said, “I was trying to delete comments. We are not all about the stuff they [critics] were saying. We are about the zen of goat snuggling.”
He has about 65 baby goats and he started goat yoga last year. But quickly animal advocates and activists picked up on this and said that he was simply replicating petting zoos which, it has been decided, is exploitative of animals.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the vice president of Greater Lehigh Valley’s Animal Defenders, Terrill Hiel, had written an email about two former baby goats offered up for rental called Bob and Butters. She rescued them in 2020.
She said that Bob was malnourished and needed a blood transfusion. He died a couple of years after admission to the sanctuary. She claimed that he died succumbing to internal damage caused by his abused youth. Butters is thriving but is skittish around children and loud noises upset him.
She says that although baby goat cuddling looks innocent, she has seen many goats suffer from stress because of their time touring with petting zoos. And, in line with what happens with tiger and lion cubs under the same circumstances, when male goats grow up, they are discarded. This is one of the great problems with private zoo petting sessions with young animals. What happens when they grow up? They are no longer commercial assets. And so, they are discarded and perhaps euthanised or slaughtered.
In defence, Steinmetz says that he treats his animals very well and that his goats have names, tags and collars. The money raised from goat yoga would have helped him run his barn. He was charging five dollars per unlimited cuddling session.
He says that the goats are placed in new homes once they are six or seven months old. They are not taken to auction or slaughtered. Sometimes they go to people who have snuggled and fallen in love with them. He ensures that they go to good homes.
Pulled the plug
He cancelled the above-mentioned goat yoga sessions because of the backlash. He said that “Fairs and festivals are one thing, I just don’t think vegan events are in our future”. This implies to me that he intends to carry on but at different events.
Goats are great
On a more positive note, and in no way am I encouraging this form of animal exploitation, it proves that goats are great animals. They are very popular. They do provide a therapy to humans. I would hope that if we’re taking some good from this, we can help to advance the welfare of goats in general.