One of the parts I wanted to capture during my trip to Morocco recently was the animal enslavement, which was harder then envisioned as the owners want money for photographs and I refused to pay towards cruelty. It is my general opinion that animals should not be in captivity, some more then others. During this trip I focused on colour 35mm film with Martin Parr as my influence and to shoot just for the art form, but I found storeys along the way.
Camels are well known as desert dwellers, surviving long distances with no water and are frequent throughout history and stories as they aided on many excursions. After domestication thousands of years ago by traders they became a survival tool that provided not only transport but shade, milk and meat with the possibility to sell their wool and leather. In many desert countries camel rides/trecks thrive and are a vital income for many, sometimes the only income which can be hard on the family but leads to the neglect of animals. Alex Mack – my best friend and travel compainion supported me in my choice not to take part in this top tourist experience which I will include in a later post as to what we got up to instead!
It is always a major argument to defend any animal welfare issue with ‘its natural or they want to’ and before I researched it I properly would feel the same but although these animals are built for these intense conditions their basic needs are not always met enough to carry passengers let alone standard health. Like many animals trapped in the entertainment/tourist business they start to be viewed as an income rather then a living feeling being which leads to mistreatment, poor living conditions and over worked.
The typical camel saddle is designed to carry two people at once which can be very strenuous not only if individuals are heavy in weight – but its money right! With our modern greed I can not imagine how many overweight people push these animals to the limits, but then I can not blame them completely for their pain. Many think if they give money to the underweight, depressed looking camels it will go towards the upkeep but in fact it can support the mistreatment as it brings in more money.
On a trip out of the center we stopped and found a camel ride group and I gained the opportunity to photograph I am still unsure whether they let us or did not notice me as there was so many of us. The camels seemed good in weight but seemed discomforted as they kept biting each other but this could of been a natural behaviour I am unaware of.
My images did not really capture the true cruelty these camels averagly endure but I think I contained the touristic enslavement. The bright tones of colour film is an abnormal way to disclose negative situations which is why I think it works, its normal, a way we naturally see things so can be informative of everyday situations or holidays which most people are uneducated.
If camel trekking is something you are really keen on doing there are things to look out for to ensure you choose the animals that are best looked after, to support animal rights in countries that do not have any. Look out for healthy weight with no visible bones, cuts or bruises and content behaviour- they may seen uncontent with low heads and no interest. Check for water and food access and when deciding consider the length of the trek and whether it is realistic for the animal.
When exploring the cities of Marrakech we were informed of a dye market where we were told we would experience beautiful colours but on our arrival we encountered a smell of death and received a tour of a camel leather dying site which on film was hard to capture in a fast paced dark environment with the workers not allowing their photograph taken. I asked our guide where the camels were slaughtered and any questions surrounding that were ignored. Upon research I found nothing helpful either but after touring the stinking patios of skin we were invited into a shop to purchase leather produce which actually made me sick. How is this deemed normal? but then I suppose it must be a good thing that they accept what they do whereas in Britain and america we hide our cruelty behind walls.
Camels deem to be an important commodity to Morocco which they make the most of them with tourists in every aspect, which in a way is respectful but I have not been fully convinced yet.
I will keep you posted if my opinion changes!
More of my Morocco travels will be up soon.