Although camels have been ridden by nomads for thousands of years in Morocco, it is the commercialization for the benefit of tourists that animal activists are denouncing.
Rabat – American model Ashley Graham is receiving backlash for posting a photo of her and her mother riding a camel in Morocco. The photo was taken during the model’s recent vacation to Agadir, a city along Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast, and was uploaded to Instagram.
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The post was quickly inundated with comments condemning Graham’s decision to ride a camel. “Poor camel. Please don’t support harmful animal tourism,” one of the top comments read.
“I hope you read your comments and start to understand that half of your followers are against riding animals and it is a form of animal cruelty! These animals have no choice when it comes to being ridden, they are slaves to their masters who only care about their bank accounts and not the animals themselves.
I hope you educate yourself about these industries and how these animals suffer year after year for humans to get their video/selfie. #animalsarenotentertainment,” commented one of the most disappointed users.
In recent years, animal activists have been questioning the morality of “animal tourism,” as camels often have to be trained to bear riders through discipline and whipping.
Another user commented that the constant tourist rides are bad for the camels’ knees, although very little research has been done into the subject.
“I went to Morocco and people were getting on and off camels every couple minutes and they were forced into their knees repeatedly and you could just tell they were hurting plus. Basically trying being forced to do squats incorrectly every day all day, you’re going to ruin your knees,” said the user.
“I refused to get on them. I’m all for horseback riding and other things in moderation, I don’t think that’s abusing animals, however the way I’ve seen camels be treated, I would have to say I think it’s very inhumane,” the user continued.
Where do animal rights groups stand on the issue?
Although nomads have used camels to travel through trade routes in the Moroccan desert for thousands of years, it is the commercialization of the practice for the benefit of tourism animal activists are criticizing.
PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) has taken the stance that all forms of camel riding are cruel and abusive. However, the group is known for their extreme views and the issue may not be so black and white.
More reputable groups, such as the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA), rather than condemning camel riding altogether advise travelers to only ride camels that are kept in responsible and ethical conditions.
SPANA, along with other NGOs, have established basic five standards that must be met for the camels: food and water, a suitable living environment, good health, an opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors, and finally protection from fear and distress.
The general advice for travelers to ensure they are not participating in unethical animal tourism is to do research and know what to look out for, ask questions, and use critical thinking.