When I first considered visiting the Middle East region I was undecided where to start my journey. Various opinions from a number of educated friends left me even more confused than when I started.
One comment that stuck in my mind was from an interview I once heard where Sir David Attenborough mentioned that "one of the atrocities created against animals was the illegal capture and shipment of exotic African species to oil rich, opulent countries such as Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait & Qatar". Saudi Arabia seemed extremely difficult for me to access a visa to, so I flipped a coin between Qatar & Kuwait. Heads it was and I readied myself for my first experience in the Middle East, Qatar.
My first port of call was the "pet market". A bustling, vibrant "souq" filled with animals from all corners of the globe. Mostly marketed at children the animals were artificially coloured or fashionably dressed to increase their popularity. Lion, tiger and bear cubs were available for purchase. Raptors of every description were tethered and their hunting abilities lauded.
Monkeys of all forms were caged, drugged or performing at the demands of their captors.
I watched as a well known (to the traders) Jordanian man heavily bartered with the Egyptian trader on the price of 3 baby chimpanzees. Dressed in nappies and appearing scared as they huddled in the corner of their cage. When happy with his price he arranged the delivery of them to his "staff" who would ensure their passage to his facility. He boasted of his reputation for having the largest collection, best prices and uncanny ability to relocate these animals to anywhere in the world.
The following morning I visited a large dairy and nearby slaughterhouse and was pleasantly surprised with the conditions that I saw before me. Far better than I had every imagined. The imported animals ("australian sheep" mostly) obviously far too valuable to allow to perish and the imported labor was threatened with their employment should they be ill treated. A quick visit to a chicken slaughterhouse left me pleased with the fact that Qatari business ventures such as these professional slaughterhouses appeared to have a good knowledge of animal welfare and at least made the process quick, clean and as respectful as possible. If only they could deal with the illegal animal trade and the housing conditions of those animals within it.