I wrote a lengthy article on Travelettes the other day about animal tourism. Afterward, some person made a remark on our facebook page, basically saying that anybody who was not a vegan shouldn't dare to comment. I didn't agree. Was I not to get upset about reading posts promoting Sea World with the words "The dolphins looked so happy, they were smiling all the time!" just because I had a ham sandwich for breakfast?
I actually wanted to cry. That was even before I stumbled upon a very prominent blog where the author had not only been to Tiger Temple in Thailand but also seen an elephant show at some farm or other. Her words where "most of the tigers looked healthy, some may have been drugged". That was praise for Tiger Temple and not an issue for her! She also addressed 'animal rights' with the reasoning that some friend had told her elephants were basically giant puppies happy to play. Oh boy.
Then I found another post actually promoting how to find an 'ethical' elephant camp yet the one the author featured was one still letting tourists ride on elephants, her being one of them.
More often than not after reading these posts I leave a comment and usually, the conversation then ends with "We have to agree to disagree". Meh. How much I hate this phrase. It is such a cop out. Also in a case like this, it is not about an opinion, it is about right or wrong (saying this, maybe the girl who requested everybody to be a vegan did have it right after all!). I am no saint - at all. There is so much that I could, should do better probably right this second instead of writing about it but still... I will freely admit that certain things just touch me more than others.
Goats in Trees in Morocco - Ethical or Not?
When I travel to Morocco I know to make a big circle around the snake charmers and the monkey handlers and while I don't like snakes in general especially seeing those monkeys breaks my heart. It is not hard to imagine that they have a tough life even when they are allowed out of their tiny cages. Honestly, why anyone could think it a great idea to take pictures with them and thus support this practice to continue I don't know. Then again I fell for something similar the other day when I was driving from Essaouira to Marrakech.
I had heard about the goats in trees in Morocco for ages. Apparently goats like argan nuts and will climb the trees to get them. Is there anywhere goats can't go?? I had seen the pictures and was dying to see them for myself. After all goats in a tree that's like snakes on a plane in a good way, right?
After coming back from a yoga retreat we were in a car from Essaouira to Marrakech when a few things happened very quickly. First, we saw a group of really cute donkeys on the side of the road which made us uuuuh and aaaaah and our driver slowed to a stop. Just when he did, we realized that two of the donkeys had been...busy...and we all got a clear view of a part of the male donkey I don't care to see again. Seriously guys, scary stuff! Before we got over this shock a bus from behind wasn't keen to slow down for us and coming at us with full speed only to move to the other lane last minute. Honestly, I thought I would die and the last thing I'd seen was a donkey's dick.
We gasped in shock, horror and relief but were promptly rewarded with a more pleasing exciting sight: goats climbing trees! This time, the driver was prepared and pulled over instead of stopping mid-road. We made our way across the road, haggled for a photo price, had a baby goat shoved into our arms and snapped away at the amazing tree climbing goats of Morocco.
But something was very odd about the whole scenario, surreal, like a film set. I didn't question it further because, I too, really wanted a picture of the argan oil goats. I took them and left quickly, almost rushing back to the car while the rest stayed put, taking more pictures of and with the Moroccan tree goats.
Eventually, we drove on, tree goats quickly put in the back of our minds as Marrakech and its very own excitement enwrapped us.
I posted the goat tree picture on Instagram and it got a lot of likes. Too many in hindsight.
I met my Moroccan friend Issam that night and told him about the tree. I have had a nagging voice in my head all day.
"Was it a set-up?", I asked him. "They didn't really tie the goats into the trees, did they?"
I was willing him to say no. But no such luck. "Yes, they do. That's a complete tourist trap!", he said.
"But I didn't see anything they were tied with!", I objected. "Can goats climb trees on their own?"
"They can, but in this case these people use really thin fishing wire to keep the goats in the trees, you wouldn't see it!"
Honestly, I was crushed. I had ignored the stories that I had heard and my gut feeling and now I felt really, really bad. But there was nothing I could do, the damage was done. I had supported one of those practices I very much loathe and outspokenly advocate against myself.
For a while, I considered taking the Instagram picture down and never talk about it again. But somehow that didn't sit right with me either. It seemed to make me even more of a hypocrite than just taking the pictures.
So here I am, telling you. I don't want you to think that I am perfect because I am not, far from it. But that doesn't mean I will shut up about issues like this and try to educate myself and others. So if you write a happy go lucky post about elephant riding and Sea World, I will comment and when you tell me we have to agree to disagree, I will let you know you are taking the easy way out. Nobody is perfect but at least we can learn something from each other's mistakes even if it is in hindsight.
If you keen to see the real argan tree goats take the road from Agadir to Essaouira. There you may or may not get lucky as the goats climb the trees at their own whim but you will at least know that no goat suffered for a picture.
Have you done something on a trip you later regretted for ethical reasons? Should I be sharing the pictures here? I am honestly not sure, please let me know what you think!
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