Growing demand for Australian goat meat has seen a surge in reported thefts from farms across Queensland.
While supermarket meat aisles have been left bare due to coronavirus-related supply chain issues, goat has become scarce as a result of another reason — drought.
While the protein remains a rare inclusion on local dinner tables, Australia is the world’s largest international exporter of the meat, with the trade estimated to be worth $145.5 million in 2020.
The majority is sent to the United States, with Taiwan, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada also key markets.
As prices skyrocketed and the price per kilogram jumped to $10 a kilogram in recent weeks, figures from Queensland’s Major and Organised Crime Squad revealed the number of goats reported stolen had almost doubled.
Over the last 12 months, 429 goats were allegedly stolen, compared to just 220 in 2020.
Goat theft takes emotional and financial toll on farmers
Some farmers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goats, according to Queensland's peak farming advocates AgForce.
“As well as the financial implications, there is an emotional toll, with many producers left devastated,” AgForce's Mike Pratt said.
One southwest Queensland producer told Yahoo News Australia she stumbled across a bloody scene on her rural property after an alleged goat theft in December.
She believes at least 10 adult goats, worth $3000, were shot and taken, with the young, lighter goats discarded at the scene.
While the animals allegedly taken were female, the farmer says the financial loss would have been much greater if males had been stolen, as they can cost up to $1000 a head.
Two people are due to face court next month in relation to the case.
In a separate incident, a goat breeder in nearby Mitchell, Peta Hannah, has reported $120,000 in Boer goat thefts to police, according to Queensland Country Life.
"I can remember when we started taking goats off this place — they were worth $5 a goat, and everyone used to laugh at us, but look at what they're worth now,” she said.
Authorities crack down on goat theft in Queensland
Amid growing reports of theft, wild animal processors will now be forced by Queensland authorities to follow new regulations when processing carcasses.
Kangaroo chiller box facilities, which are believed to have processed both legal and stolen animals, will now have to obtain and retain paperwork proving the goats were shot with consent.
Shooters will now also have to carry consent forms from landholders when they’re in possession of wild-shot carcasses.
Mr Pratt said AgForce welcomes the “crackdown”, characterising it as “a step in the right direction”.
“We commend efforts by Safe Food Production Queensland to deter this illegal trade, and look forward to working with them to help protect the State’s commercial goat industry,” he said.
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