You may think that you don’t know what an Icelandic goat is, but if you’ve watched the hit “Game of Thrones” show then you’ve probably seen them. Despite their television appearance, not all is well with the Icelandic goat. The fight is on to save the rare goat of Nordic origin that dates back over 1,100 years.
As Modern Farmer reports, in Iceland, a former nurse named Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir is leading the fight from her family farm, Háafell. Þorvaldsdóttir and her children were born on the family farm, but a perfect storm is brewing that could mean the end of Háafell and the end of the endangered Icelandic goats that she raises.
I’ll be completely honest: you wouldn’t find me at Háafell because it doesn’t align with many of my values; I don’t want to eat or use anything that comes from a goat. But I can push those values aside because I do believe in locals buying locally, I’d rather support a non big business farm and I believe in food sovereignty. And I don’t want the fate of 360 endangered goats to be slaughterhouse, and we have less than a month to save them.
Háafell is Making a Difference
Háafell is the only commercial and breeding farm on the large island dedicated to Icelandic Goats. Þorvaldsdóttir saw firsthand how vulnerable to extinction the goats’ numbers were. At one point, there were only 90 goats left in the world. The Slow Food Foundation recounts how the goats have had fluctuating vulnerable numbers. The goats’ heyday goes back to 1930 when there were almost 3,000 Icelandic goats, but severe climate changes have drastically reduced the goats’ numbers. While the government created conservation initiatives that have steadily improved the goats’ numbers, people like Þorvaldsdóttir have also been instrumental in their recovery.
Instead of letting extinction happen, Þorvaldsdóttir quit her nursing job to dedicate her work to saving the Icelandic goat. Her gamble paid off. Modern Farmer reports that there are currently around 800 goats around the world. Háafell houses 190 adults and 170 goats. Þorvaldsdóttir supports her family farm by creating goat-based products like soaps and balms infused with goat milk, herbs and botanicals; she also hosts roughly 100 people daily at her farm for tours. As a commercial and breeding farm, the farm also offers goat meat, cashmere wool and dairy products.
360 Endangered Icelandic Goats Might Be Butchered
Unfortunately, government bureaucracy is making it more difficult than ever to operate the family farm. The Icelandic sheep — not goat — dominate the livestock industry on the island. Current government regulations have barred Þorvaldsdóttir from opening the highly sought-after raw milk dairy and creamery business that could help her stay afloat. The farmer has already been forced to sell 900-hectares (or 2,200-acres) of the family farm.
In mid-September, her entire farm is in danger of going to auction. If Þorvaldsdóttir loses her farm, she’ll inevitably have to send her 190 adult and 170 kid Icelandic goats — of the current 800 Icelandic goats left in the world — to slaughter. According to Indiegogo, the family farm needs to raise $90,000 to stop the entire flock from being butchered.
Modern Farmer writes how the goats are more than a commodity to Þorvaldsdóttir. There’s a rapport based on “respect and kindness.” Compared to other commercial farms where livestock animals are kept in dark, unsanitary and cramped conditions, the goats at Háafell have it made. They at least get a life of long days on the farm’s hills, the freedom to return to their barn when they choose, the ability to eat real grass, and they receive the occasional affection.
The entire species would also lose. Þorvaldsdóttir’s breeding expertise would also be gone, along with the already disappearing pool of family run farms and traditional ways of farm life.
Livestock farms are a reality. At least, smaller and family operated farms give locals healthier options than GMO-hormone filled junk, they support the local economy and they usually treat the animals better. Háafell can’t close its doors. Plus, what a waste to senselessly slaughter 360 perfectly healthy and already endangered Icelandic goats? Please sign and share this petition to save the Icelandic goat from the brink of extinction again.
Photo Credit: Natesh Ramasamy