Saudi Youth Start a Campaign to Save Endangered and Abused Wild Animals
By Muhammed Aladdin
With the rise of viral social media videos of pets that are endangered animals in Saudi Arabia and their normalization, someone had to say something.
Saudi teenager Animal Rights Activist, Aram Alrayes, saw the lack of awareness in her society and decided to dedicate her Twitter account to help regular Saudis understand why keeping wild animals in captivity is wrong. Surprisingly, her message is getting across with each day more and more Saudis following her account.
“There are people out there who want wild animals as pets and to use them in the entertainment industry. They use them for their own good, regardless of the animal’s well-being,” she told Arab News in a statement.
When asked about the root of the problem, Alrayes pointed at social media influencers. Many of them keep endangered animals as pets and post videos on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram in a direct violation of Saudi animal welfare laws.
Although the kingdom’s government has banned hunting and keeping wild animals at homes, the practice is yet to stop. There is a trend of raising and breeding wild animals in private homes without any consideration of ethical consequences.
Money and lack of punishment were the reasons behind the popularity of the growing trend. Alrayes pointed out that the Saudi public is fooled with the viral videos showing the animals playing. They watch them and think the animals are happy, but many do not know of the dark reality of the situation with the majority of these animals drugged and kidnapped at a very young age.
She believes that through raising awareness about the unethical circumstances in which these animals are introduced to and bred in the kingdom, she could convince the public to refuse them and put a stop to the illegal industry.
Badar Al-Faleh, the Director of the Licensing Department at the Saudi Wildlife Authority, stated that the government does not issue licenses to predators such as big cats and wolves. “There is a royal decree that prohibits the importation of these animals, for personal use or commercial purposes. We do not issue licenses to import these animals to the kingdom. Owning a predator is illegal,” he continued.
People who raise or breed wild animals are doing so against the laws of the kingdom; as these animals are either smuggled into Saudi or bred illegally; both offenses are punishable by law.
On Twitter, Aram Alrayes campaigns against these practices, but she noticed that many within the public do not draw the distinction between wild and domesticated animals. Many argued that having a cat at home was the same as having a lion; she said that such ignorance motivated her to be more active and campaign even harder.
She has devoted her Twitter account to raising awareness about animal rights, citing Gandhi who said that the “greatness of a nation and its moral progress” could be judged by the way its animals are treated.