Saudi Arabia has disqualified some 40 camels from its lucrative annual beauty contest for the animals on the grounds that they received Botox injections, facelifts, and other cosmetic touch-ups to become more attractive.
Describing it as the biggest-ever crackdown on such “tampering and deception,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday that the animals were barred from the ‘Miss Camel’ pageant held during the popular King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. The event, which began earlier this month, invites breeders to compete for a $66 million prize.
Noting that “specialized and advanced” technology was used to detect the artificially enhanced camels, the SPA warned that event organizers will “impose strict penalties on manipulators,” with the intention of halting “all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels.”
At this year’s event, held in the desert near the capital city Riyadh, authorities found that dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of their camels, used muscle-boosting hormones, injected their heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used face-relaxing fillers.
Such artificial alterations are strictly prohibited at the contest, where judges pick the winner according to the shape of its head, neck, hump, dress, and posture. In recent years, organizers have reportedly used ultrasound scans and x-ray machines to confirm whether the animals have received cosmetic enhancements.
According to The Telegraph, camels found to have been artificially enhanced are banned from the competition for two years and can even be added to a blacklist circulated by authorities. Their owners can also be fined up to 100,000 Saudi riyals ($26,650).
But some breeders in the multimillion-dollar industry have apparently defended these alterations on aesthetic grounds and pushed back against the bans.
The beauty pageant is the main attraction at the month-long festival, which also includes camel races and markets. The gala ties into the camel’s traditional role in the oil-rich kingdom’s nomadic Bedouin roots. Similar, albeit less lucrative, beauty contests are held across the region.