Saudi camel
Saudi camels. For illustrative purposes only.

Abu Dhabi: A video clip widely circulated in Saudi Arabia showing several camels with ruptured lips due to Botox sparked outrage among owners and lovers of the animal, local media reported.

They demanded an end to tampering with animal welfare and the imposition of the most severe penalties.

Each year thousands of camels across Saudi Arabia and the wider Arabian Peninsula descend onto the small village of Rumah, 140km northeast of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, to compete in the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival’s beauty contest and racing competitions.

In pursuit of perfectly pouting lips and wrinkle-free noses, a number of competitors use Botox injections in the hope of scoring the top prize. Organisers at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival are clamping down and enforcing stiff penalties to combat doctored dromedaries. When offenders are caught, they must pay SR100,000 per camel.

Mishaal Al Shwaish, a writer and economic expert, says Botox and fillers have serious health effects on camels, damaging vital organs, especially in the long term.

The injection of these substances is a serious crime punishable by law with the most severe penalties, and it causes loss of sensation and control in the face, he said.

“There is also a committee with advanced capabilities and a high budget to detect such matters, and this committee reports the Saudi Camel Club, which is supervised by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” Al Shwaish said.

Dr. Ali bin Mohammad Al Duwairj, Director-General of the Department of Health and Veterinary Control at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, explained that the regulations prohibit using any drugs that are not licensed for use on animals, in addition to it being unethical.

If a profusely puffed pout arouses the suspicions of festival officials, a team of veterinarians ushers the would-be contestant to the festival’s medical tent. Ultrasound is used to detect cosmetic enhancements such as lip fillers, and an x-ray machine is used to identify surgical modifications, such as a reshaped nose or reset ears.

Owners of any physically altered or enhanced camels caught entering the contest are barred for at least two years and put on a blacklist that’s distributed by the camel club. When they are caught, the owner must pay SR100,00 per camel.