Yes, there really is a camel beauty contest held annually in Saudi Arabia, and it draws hundreds of entries.
And yes, more than 40 of the animals have been disqualified from this year’s competition because owners have tampered with their looks.
If you’re buying those first two facts, stick with the story. The reason they had been tampered with? Botox injections and other cosmetic enhancements.
It’s not hard to understand why owners might try so hard to bring the perfect camel to the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, held annually on festival grounds about 60 miles outside the capital of Riyadh. After all, there are $66 million in prizes available.
According to CNN, organizers of the 40-day festival have dealt with 147 cases of tampering — the largest number since the festival began 6 years ago. This year, 43 camels were disqualified.
Some 27 camels were kicked out for having stretched body parts, and 16 were disqualified for having received injections.
According to BBC News, it is quite the CSI operation to find evidence of tampering.
All of the camels were first led into a hall where experts examined their external appearance and movements. Their heads, necks, and torsos were then scanned with both X-ray and ultrasound machines. Samples were taken for genetic analysis.
The Camel Club, organizers of the event, was “keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels” and promised to “impose strict penalties on manipulators,” BBC News said.
Not only were the offending camels disqualified, their owners must pay a price as well — literally. Those caught entering an animal determined to have been tampered with are assessed a fine of about $27,000, CNN reports.
The beauty contest is just part of the massive carnival, which is held on a site 12 square miles in size. The event also features camel races, sales, and other events showcasing thousands of camels.
It’s big business in Saudi Arabia, where victory or a high place in the beauty contest can dramatically increase the value of a camel.
But not everybody is on board with the festivities. Jason Baker, senior vice president of PETA Asia, called the competition a “cruel farce.”
“Subjecting any animal to a cosmetic procedure, from ear cropping to declawing, dehorning, and filler injections, is hideously cruel and shows the humans who use such tactics to be extremely ugly,” Baker said.
More than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend some portion of the festival, which draws camels and their owners from all over the world.
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