Bailey Carkenord Blog Post 5 – Animal Welfare in Marrakesh

Marrakesh is a city that is brimming with life. The souks and streets are crowded and noisy, with bikes  and motorcycles weaving through at breakneck speeds. In Place Jemaa el-Fna, the main square, acrobats, dancers, musicians, and singers performed for huge crowds, while vendors peddled their wares from all sides. However, during my time in Marrakesh, I found myself considering the animal lives around me. As in all of the other Moroccan cities I had visited, skinny cats and kittens swarmed the streets, begging for food scraps and sleeping in gutters. Stray dogs, too, roamed the streets looking in need of a good meal and a trip to the vet. Street merchants displayed cages packed with chameleons and turtles for sale—either for tourists or, as I read in A House in Fez, ritual sacrifices. Horse-drawn carriages filled the streets but many of the horses looked in bad shape—protruding ribs and hip bones, matted coats, overgrown hooves. I saw several carriage horses stumble to their knees over the course of the weekend, and, as I watched a horse be fed and shod while hitched to a carriage, wondered if they ever got a real break from their jobs. Alongside the human performers in Place Jemaa el-Fna, cobras waited in baskets to be summoned by snake charmers and monkeys were led from tourist to tourist by the chains looped around their necks. I know that there are many, many, problems facing the world and Morocco, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these animals—especially those who were being used for monetary gain. I wished there was another way Moroccan people could earn a livelihood, but I didn’t know what that might be or how I could have any impact.

On Sunday, our group met with several representatives from NGOs and volunteer organizations based in Morocco. One woman was from a group called “Help Adopt Cats and Dogs from Morocco.” Essentially an animal shelter, she talked about her work taking in sickly dogs and cats off the street, nursing them back to health, and then finding them forever homes. She also discussed HACDFM’s efforts to implement Trap-Neuter-Return programs in major cities in Morocco to try to curb the growth of cat and dog populations. She herself admitted that there were other problems facing Morocco, and that the organization couldn’t help every animal, but she felt proud of her work and the fact that she had made a difference in the lives of many cats and dogs.

Her talk inspired me for several reasons. First of all, I was glad that I wasn’t the only one who was troubled by the state of being of animals in Morocco. It was heartening to know that there were indeed organized groups focused on animal welfare and activism. Secondly, I admired her commitment to her cause: even though others might say that there are “bigger” problems facing the Morocco, it didn’t dissuade her from fighting for something that she believes in. And, just because she was unable to help every animal in Morocco, does that mean she shouldn’t help any? Over the course of my time in Morocco, we have visited several NGOs and organizations in Morocco with various goals and methods. As we leave each meeting, I find myself asking: Are they doing enough? Are they doing it the right way? Such questions are important, but I feel we must be careful not to be too critical. After all, doing a little good is better than not doing any at all.

Carriage horses on the streets of Marrakesh.

A chameleon for sale in the souk in Marrakesh.

3 comments to Bailey Carkenord Blog Post 5 – Animal Welfare in Marrakesh

  • ماكس

    This is so similar to the realization I had after seeing the starving cats in Amman, overworked donkeys at Petra, and neglected animals at the Prince Hashem Bird Sanctuary while I was in Jordan last summer. We aren’t as often exposed to seeing poor treatment of animals in the U.S. Though there is still much work to be done, it gives me hope that there are people working tirelessly in Morocco and across the MENA region to improve animal welfare.

    p.s. I think you might be interested in The Brooke. They’re a nonprofit that advocates for better working conditions for horses and donkeys around the world. Something to check out.

  • Anonymous

    Bailey – A thoughtful, articulate, and moving post. People throughout the world have always figured out a way to use the ‘natural resources’ in their environment in order to survive and prosper (e.g., plants, trees, coal, oil). But as you note, the issue becomes complicated when those ‘natural resources’ are capable of suffering.

  • Aunt barb

    Wow Bailey! What a thoughtful post! Must have made you sad to see those horses in not so good shape. You are right though! A little good is better than none at all

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