Saudi Arabia’s central Riyadh Region has been roiled by an animal show scandal straight from a Christopher Guest film. As NPR reports, around a dozen camels were disqualified from a beauty contest at the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival because their handlers illegally plumped their features with Botox injections.
The month-long Camel Festival in Al Dhana, Saudi Arabia, runs through February 1, 2018, and features around 30,000 camels. The animals participate in races, an obedience competition, and a beauty contest. Nearly $57 million in prize money rides on these high-stakes events, and owners preen their prized steeds accordingly with massages, hairspray, and—as it turns out—banned cosmetic surgery procedures, according to The Telegraph.
Camels in the ungulate pageant are judged on whether they have long necks, enlarged lips and noses, a big head, and defined humps. The criteria evidently drove some owners to desperate measures: Shortly before the Camel Festival kicked off, officials discovered that a vet had been injecting some participating camels with botulism.
The vet is receiving heat, but he’s by no means the only competitor to use illegal tactics, according to United Arab Emirates-based newspaper The National. In addition to Botox injections and collagen fillers, some sneaky handlers darken their animals’ coats with oil, rely on hormone injections for enhanced muscularity, and stretch the camels' lips by hand to elongate their appearance. And while large facial features are considered desirable, large lobes aren’t, so the guilty vet’s humped charges also received ear reductions.
Officials can ban enhanced camels from entering future beauty competitions, and owners can face possible legal recourse for violating animal welfare laws. Some breeders have called for cheaters to face stronger punishments, like a fine, which is already applied to drug-enhanced racing camels. As for now, the 12 camels who went under the needle are now under the microscope.