Sunday, 25 November 2012


Kuwait is a sprawling city dripping with excesses. It seems as if everyone on the road has a new car, a Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini or better (if there is such a thing). I must admit, I wasn't prepared for a tiger riding shotgun in a new, black, Range Rover Sports. The hotel driver (who had just collected me from my inbound flight) seemed uninterested in the sight, as if to be common place. As the vehicle sped past me the well dressed Kuwaiti man was talking on his mobile phone as the animal enjoyed the warm air blowing into its face as he took a leisurely drive. I straight away knew that I was in for an adventure in Kuwait that would not leave me enamoured with this wealthy countries approach to animals and their welfare.

I visited a local slaughterhouse called, Shuwaikh. It was a friday and the slaughter of sheep and goats was very slow but the workers at the slaughterhouse told me that it gets very busy during the week. Recent upgrades to the slaughterhouse included ramps to ensure the animal was not lying in blood and blinds to prevent one animal from seeing the slaughter of another. A raceway had been installed to make transfer of the animals from the buying area to the slaughterhouse more "friendly". All animals in the facility had access to food, water and shade and I was pleasantly surprised. 
My next stop was a nearby chicken slaughterhouse. Surprisingly chickens here were stunned using an electrical device. The manager told me this was to prevent the animal from feeling the pain of the knife. The unwanted rooster chicks were also send here for "humane euthanization" in a machine that gassed the chicks. Far from pleasant, but a lack of viable alternatives made it better than past methods apparently.
 Next was a stop at the nearby "friday market". A bustling, sprawling display of everything that a person could want. Food, clothes, perfumes, jewellery, house appliances and, unfortunately, pets! Sheep and goats filled one large area with the traders happy to provide a roadside slaughter and butchery facility. Adult dogs occupied another undercover area. Some people were pitting their dogs against others and men and children happily gathered to cheer on their favourite dog in the fight. Birds, kittens and puppies had their own section. As did poultry and fish. Exotic pets had another warehouse-like area. Everything from monkeys to big cats to raptors (including snow owls and large eagles) to bears to hyenas were available. "Delivery to anywhere in the world" was offered. Payment upfront, of course.

So far, unfortunately, it was apparent that money could buy anything the heart desired in Kuwait. As the hotel concierge said to me, "if you have a plane, a large boat, a ferrari and a wardrobe full of Armani clothes, why not buy a tiger and a dolphin for the kids? What seems absurd to the less fortunate is all possible to the rich."

The same man later told me that "if I was upset by the Friday Market, I should stay away from the Kuwait Zoo." What choice did I have? I had to visit! 
He wasn't wrong. The zoo was old school (as my son would say), old cement enclosures, totally devoid of any stimulation or enrichment of ay kind. The animals appeared well fed but "depressed". 

People queued, donation in hand, for pictures of themselves or their children, straddling a lion which by all accounts must have been sedated. Elephants, monkeys and tigers were forced to perform. The keepers bragged about the rapidness with which one of their big cats could overcome a live deer or donkey when herded into the enclosure and offered me the chance to witness it (for a fee of course!) One Pakistani keeper who appeared upset by the side businesses of his colleagues commented that this is the 3rd zoo in which he has worked in in the Middle East region that operated in such a way. He justified his continuance of employment by sighting that it was better than the zoo in Egypt and Amman, from which he had previously worked. He noted that conditions for the animals in summer can reach well above 50 degrees in Kuwait and many of the animals perish. 

All the money available to the Kuwait Government and this is the best they can do?


  1. Great job Seth. Love your dedication and cause. Thanks for dedicating your holiday time to the plight of animals worldwide. Cant wait for more.