For so long, society has hailed unrealistic beauty as THE standard. Apparently, this doesn't just apply to people, but for camels, too.
Camels are majestic—their big-lipped snout, long legs and those huge humps make them unique. They have long been an important part of culture and heritage in the desert region as these mammals provide more than just a mode of transport to people.
In Saudi Arabia, camels are celebrated through the popular King Abdul-Aziz Camel Festival, an annual event that aims to consolidate and strengthen the camel heritage in the Saudi, Arab and Islamic culture.
Every year, except for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival invites breeders of the fairest camels of them all to compete for the prize money—a whopping $66 million or P3.3 billion.
Each camel is judged based on the shape of its head, neck, humps, dress and posture.
Though camels are already majestic as they are, the multi-million dollar industry of camel pageantry forces some breeders to do whatever it takes to win the massive prize pot, even if it means they have to alter the image of the dromedaries.
According to The National, what distinguishes a beautiful camel is not just its height, shape and placement of its hump. “A full, droopy lip and large features are essential in achieving camel celebrity status,” the report said.
This year, 40 camels were ejected from the contest after authorities found out dozens of breeders reportedly made cosmetic alterations to their camels to make them more attractive, which is strictly prohibited.
Aljazeera reported that some breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels and used hormones to boost the animal’s muscles.
Not only that, those camels were also injected with Botox to make their heads and lips look bigger. Rubber bands were also used to inflate body parts and fillers to relax their face.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” said in an Saudi Press Agency report. Organizers would also reportedly “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”
This is not the first time that the camel breeders have been penalized and disqualified in the competition for artificially enhancing camels.
In 2018, a dozen camels were reportedly disqualified from the pageant after they received Botox injections from a veterinarian a few days before the pageant. The enhancer was used for the nose, upper and lower lip and even the jaw of the dromedaries.
Pre-pandemic, the festival, held in the southern Sayahdah district of Al-Dahnaa, attracted millions of visitors mostly from the Gulf and Arab countries. The month-long event focuses on Saudi cultural heritage with camels, which plays an important role in the region, as the stars of the festival.