Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary - Mendon MASS
FacebookYouTube Subscribe to Newsletter

What's Wrong with Goat Yoga?

What's Wrong with Goat Yoga?

When MFS volunteer Jessica Bewsee heard about the popular new goat yoga trend, she was curious (despite not being a yoga fan). But what she discovered about this seemingly harmless practice was deeply unsettling. Read her story:

In spite of the many reassurances from yoga-enthusiast friends that I need to keep trying yoga until I find the right fit for me, I’ve actually never really cared for yoga. I’m the only person I know who leaves yoga angrier than when I came in. What does relax me and make me happy is being with animals.

Because everyone knows I love animals, it wasn’t much of a surprise that numerous friends kept putting the same two or three videos on my Facebook page—cute little baby goats hopping up and down on people who were doing downward-facing dog. Suddenly, I realized, goat yoga is a thing. I love goats, so maybe I could learn to love yoga, too, if I had a bunch of animal friends all around me being cute and affectionate.

I did have a few questions right off the bat: what about poop? If you’ve been around goats you know they really don’t care where they poop or who they poop near. How does one do yoga with goats pooping all around them? That doesn’t sound very relaxing.

Also, goats will nibble on anything, so what about my headband? My water bottle? My shoelaces? Are we barefoot? There’s that poop problem again. 

But then more serious questions occurred to me: Where do the baby goats come from and are they being exploited? What happens to them when they’re not cute and little enough to hop on people’s backs? If people who attended goat yoga classes at farms knew the answer to this, would it make a difference to them?


The Intersection of Goat Yoga and Goat Farming

A quick Google search of “goat yoga Massachusetts” turned up several farms hopping on the bandwagon. All promise that you can interact with scampering, adorable, frolicking, curious little goats in a relaxed setting. All of them are working farms of some kind or another—selling livestock for eggs, meat or milk.

What’s wrong with that? If you want baby goats, you’re going to need to go to a goat dairy farm or some kind of farm, right?

First, we have to remember that, like humans, goats only lactate when they’ve got a baby. So if we’re using goat milk for ourselves, where does the baby go?

I spoke to MFS co-owner Cheri, who used to be a goat dairy farmer before she transformed the property into a sanctuary.

Cheri told me that goats are pregnant for about 150 days, and that when the mother goat gives birth, the kid is immediately taken away. If the kid is a male, he is sent to slaughter.

If the kid is a female from good breeding stock, she’ll be raised and then used for milk. She’ll live about five years in a constant cycle of breeding and birthing, and then after about five years, she, too, is sent to slaughter. And that doesn’t necessarily mean to some slaughterhouse, Cheri admitted painfully. Some communities will buy goats from farms, toss them hogtied into the trunk of a car or back of a truck, and slaughter the babies themselves for Easter dinner.


What's a Yoga (and Goat) Enthusiast to Do?

So, back to goat yoga. If you’re doing goat yoga at a working dairy farm, the baby hopping on your back today is most likely going to be on someone’s dinner plate in the near future. If it’s not at a dairy farm—if it’s a hobby farm or a produce farm that buys goats for the specific purpose of having goat yoga for some extra income—the question remains the same: where did they themselves get the goat? What are they going to do with the baby when the kid is too big to be cute and hoppy?

Yoga is a religious practice that was developed over thousands of years in South Asia. Most popular yoga programs in the United States today are based on a certain branch of yoga that focuses on physical exercises for spiritual development. There are also many variations of yoga (devotional, action, knowledge, breathing, etc.,) that strive for spiritual discipline and liberation.

If the philosophy of yoga suggests that we be more conscientious in our thoughts and actions, here are some things to consider to decide if goat yoga is right for you, and right for the goats:

Ask the farms that are holding goat yoga events. Where do you get the babies? Did you pay for them? What happens to them when they grow up? Are you a working farm? Do you send animals to slaughter?

Ask who is benefiting from this emotionally. If goat yoga is only benefiting you because it’s fun to be around cute baby animals, maybe there is a better and more fulfilling way to do something good for your body and mind that allows you to interact with animals but not harm them directly or indirectly. Karma yoga is the path of unselfish action. How about volunteering to do some physical work with animals? And I promise you, it will you benefit you emotionally and spiritually.

Does that mean the idea of goat yoga is completely (pardon the pun) off the table? No, not really.  Many farm sanctuaries actually have goat yoga events. Of course, you should still do your homework and ask the same questions—do they buy the goats? Where did they come from? You may want to reconsider if a “sanctuary” tells you they buy goats because, again, they're probably buying them from a dairy farm and contributing to the dairy industry.

I volunteer at MFS at least once a week, sometimes more. I can tell you from experience that goats are charming and funny. Each one of them has a different personality that makes interacting with them really enjoyable. I’d do yoga with my friend Putt Putt in a heartbeat! And while you may not have little hoppity babies, you’ll still be around goats and farms and nature doing something kind for your body, your mind and the animals. Adult goats are just as sweet, just as loving, and just as cute as the babies—and you don’t have to worry about them hopping on your back with their sharp little hooves!

Below: Jess prefers to get her fill of goats, like Putt Putt, by volunteering in the barns at MFS