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Too Many Camels? Let's Eat Them!
Australian company proposes a tasty alternative to beef
Eric Shackle (Shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-05 17:18 (KST)   
Can you guess which country is home to an estimated million camels? If you thought it would be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan, China or Mongolia (the Gobi Desert), you'd be wrong.

The correct answer is Australia, where wild camels have multiplied to reach plague numbers. They damage water points, fences and buildings, causing havoc in remote aboriginal communities.

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Many of the marauders are thought to be descended from Harry, a huge bull imported from the Canary Islands in 1840. In later years, hundreds of camels were tamed, and used as beasts of burden. They've carried explorers, workers and tourists thousands of miles through Australia's vast Red Center.

The animals are multiplying so rapidly that unless drastic action is taken, there could be four to five million in the central Australian regions in less than a generation, according to South Australian ecologist Phil Gee.

BHP-Billiton, the world's largest diversified resources company, thinks it has the answer: let's eat them. The company wants to round them up, slaughter them, and market their red meat (which is said to taste like beef) for human consumption in Australia and overseas.

"The mining giant is running a pastoral trial involving 300 camels to see if there's a possibility of one day turning these beasts of burden into burgers, sausages and steaks," ABC reporter Mark Willacy told listeners on May 4.

Another company in the Northern Territory already sells canned camel meat as dog food. We're told dogs devour it with gusto (don't ask where can you buy Gusto). Wayne Ford, of Howard Springs Pet Food, said thousands of wild camels would be killed this year to feed northern Australia's dogs, cats and even crocodiles.

Willacy was a little critical about camels. "They're ugly, ungainly, and they sound like a flushing toilet," he said. Someone else once famously described a camel as "a horse designed by a committee."

Jane Wooldridge, an American travel writer, has a better opinion of them. She has just written an amusing account of her adventures for the Chicago Tribune. It began:
"Let's get this out of the way right now: Camels do not stink. They don't spit either -- at least not the ones I know. And I know a few ... almost a dozen of 'em, in fact. Spent three days with them -- three close-contact days -- in Australia's Outback ..."
Her story ended with this footnote:
"Camel racing is a serious betting sport in the Outback. The exception is the popular Alice Springs Camel Cup (www.camelcup.com.au) each July, a charity event that draws thousands of visitors. The next cup is July 14, 2007."
It's to be hoped no one eats the favorite before then.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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