Adnan El Aji, a veterinarian in Essaouira, says the goats are resistant and can cope with stressors such as heat and lack of water. However, having them stood in trees for hours during Moroccan summers, where temperatures can easily exceed 40 ° C, can lead to heat stress and dehydration. Animals can fall from trees and injure themselves. He says that one day a tourist came with a goat that had fallen and had to be treated for a broken leg. “The tourist paid for the care,” he says.
When it’s time for Benaddi’s goats to go home, eleven of them come down easily. Khalid climbs to lure the last one, a female, while his older brother, Abdelmajid, throws small pebbles at her and then uses a stick to fan the branch she is standing on. The goat staggers and crashes to the ground, a fall of more than 3 meters. After a few attempts, she struggles to get back on her feet, and as the others walk toward their enclosure, she lags behind.
Although Morocco is a member of the World Organization for Animal Health (OMSA), the body responsible for assessing animal health and welfare worldwide, the country does not have strict animal health laws. animal welfare, “explains Cabrera Holtz.
In 2021, when the non-profit organization World Animal Protection ranked fifty countries based on their animal laws and political obligations, Morocco was one of seven countries that received a low rating.
The organization assesses animal welfare in five categories: nutrition (access to food and water), environment (comfort), health (freedom from pain and injury), behavior (freedom to express one’s natural habits) and mental state (psychological well-being). According to Cabrera Holtz, goats forced to climb trees for the pleasure of tourists were abused on all five estates.
“While the activity may not seem particularly serious, it is animal cruelty,” she says. She adds that tourists “get pictures of live props. What is happening here is unnatural. It is limited, and when you introduce an element of restraint, it is irrelevant whether their bodies can take care of trees or not.”
Asma Kamili, head of the animal health department in Morocco for OMSA, says she is not aware that goats in the Essaouira region are placed in trees to make money on tourists. According to her, climbing trees is “a natural behavior” of these animals, which would be good for the argan trees, because if the goats eat its fruits and spread the seeds through their excrement, the number of trees increases.
Jose Fedriani, an ecologist at the Desertification Research Center, a Spanish institute dedicated to studying environmental degradation in arid areas, agrees that seed dispersal is a good thing. But he also adds that the goats not only eat the fruit, they also consume the leaves and the young plants. It takes between seven and fifteen years for argan trees to mature and produce fruit: therefore, tree rejuvenation is actually prevented by placing more goats in an area where they can destroy young plants, especially during periods of drought.
Using goats this way is good “to attract tourists, but it’s not good for the trees at all,” says Fedriani.
About 800 meters from Benaddi’s argan tree, Miloud Banaaddi, who also had to give up farming and trains his eight new goats to rest in his almond tree, rejects any idea that his activity is cruel. “The goats only stay in the trees for three to four hours at a time,” he explains. “Imagine me keeping them inside the house: they would be trapped and hungry. Where should we find the money to feed them? There is nothing else to do. There is no work. There are no other solutions. It is the only. “
PLACE A SYSTEM
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, drought conditions in Morocco are expected to continue intensifying by 2050.
“Everything should be green right now, but you can see it’s completely dry,” Benaddi says, pointing to the parched landscape surrounding the argan tree. “Before, we did not have to spend money on feeding the goats, they had food available everywhere. »