Animal Activists Expose the Cruel Practice of Camel Wrestling

Some people may be surprised that camel wrestling exists, as it’s the kind of cruel practice — viewed by those who engage in it as a “sport” — that should be non-existent in the 21st century. Every year, more than two dozen competitions take place in Turkey, most of which connect to some sort of annual festival, and approximately 100 camels are forced to participate in these competitions. In addition, each camel would be required to fight, at minimum, ten matches in a single event. Because camels have existed for more than 40 million years, it’s hard to know for sure when camel wrestling began, although evidence suggests these tournaments could have begun an estimated 2400 years ago.

Source: euronews/YouTube

So, what exactly is camel wrestling? Well, it’s a sport that has been held since the early 20th century and one that consists of two camels (both male) who wrestle one another in a “wide field.” Whichever male comes out on top — “toppling” the opponent — is the winner. The Turkish government continues to allow this sport to exist, as they claim that camel wrestling is part of Turkish culture. Besides, supporters of the sport say, it’s normal for male camels to “instinctively” fight one another when it comes time to mate. As such, camel wrestling is only held during the animals’ mating season (from November to March), because the males only fight when in heat. These competitions will take place either on an open field or in a football stadium, as long as there are fences to stop camels from escaping. When the camel wrestling season is almost over, the camels who’ve won the most competitions overall would fight one another in All-Star-like events.

As important as camel wrestling is for Turkish citizens, it’s also a big tourist attraction. Certain tourists may have believed that experiencing a live camel wrestling competition would enable them to get to know Turkish culture. For the country’s citizens, it’s a popular sport, along with football and oil wrestling. Because camel wrestling as a sport generates a lot of income for Turkey, efforts by animal rights activists to shut down these events have not resulted in any real changes. However, at one point, the Turkish government attempted to shut down these competitions: in the 1930s, the government at the time claimed that this particular sport “was culturally backward” and would not be beneficial to the history of the country. Even though these events take place in Turkey, the camels forced to participate would typically be bred in Iran or Afghanistan; approximately 2,000 camels are bred specifically to be used in these competitions. Such camels usually possess thicker necks and stronger builds than other camels, which makes them sturdier and less likely to fall.  This can also make it more difficult for the camels’ owners and for the events’ organizers to stop a fight, leading to in-fighting.

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

The very nature of the sport of camel wrestling is what makes it an inexcusable activity: defenseless animals being forced to fight each other while wearing intricate, colorful saddles — with thousands of people watching and cheering. These wrestling events are quite involved, as they will also include traditional dancing, music, and a barbeque featuring camel meat, among other things. Also, before the race, the camels are paraded around in a sort of “beauty pageant,” adorned with Turkish flags, colorful and beady muzzles, bells, pompons, and more. Like a true pageant, the animals are judged as they wander through the crowd, often with locals riding them. This is the kind of unacceptable behavior that should not be allowed, but it is something that continues to exist, despite pushback from activists and even from the Istanbul Bar Association (IBA). The IBA has criticized the Turkish law that supposedly “bans animal fights,” citing that camel wrestling should indeed be banned, as it is a violent practice with no real “folkloric roots.” This law allows for “traditional folkloric shows without violence,” which does not apply to camel wrestling; in this case, the law should lead to prison sentencing and financial punishment for those involved.

Sure, precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the animals, including the presence of referees and others nearby, as well as the camels wearing muzzles to avoid bite wounds. And, yet, the fact that these animals are being forced to fight one another is a “big crime” — as stated by Gulgun Hamamcioglu, a representative for the Animal rights Federation. As Hamamcioglu said, people will see animals fighting, suffering, wounded, and maybe even killing each other, and yet these same individuals will “enjoy this” spectacle and could even “make a financial profit.” However, according to Mehmet Falakali, the former head of tourism in Selcuk, camels are unable to “seriously hurt each other,” because there were people nearby who could separate them if needed. The camels’ owners also claim that this sport is something they do “with love,” and that it’s wrestling, not a fight, and is similar to how we humans wrestle. They also assert that their camels wouldn’t hurt others and that they take care of these animals as if they were their human children.

Source: TRT World/YouTube

Despite what camel owners, wrestling workers, and the like claim, there’s something inherently wrong about the sport of camel wrestling. Also, the rather complex scoring system often relies on one camel’s ability to get his opponent to fall, flee, push, scream, or put his saddle off him. Thereby, they are rewarded for injuring or at least mentally scarring their opponents. So, even if the owners say that they take the best possible care of their animals, these are intelligent creatures who do not deserve to be paraded around and forced to compete with one another outside of their natural environments. Fortunately, camel wrestling appears to be in decline, as each year brings fewer competitors, smaller audiences, and less appeal among modern Turkish people; simply put, they just aren’t as interested in going to see live camels wrestling when they could, for example, find something entertaining on YouTube. The best thing you can do is to not Support camel wrestling, as well as camel rides, which are both common tourist attractions/activities in places like Turkey and other countries in the Middle East. Instead, Support ethical animal sanctuaries and rescues, and do not visit or give money to any organization that allows for direct interaction with wild and/or dangerous animals.

Tiny Rescue Animal Collection

Speak Up Tee By Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

Related Content:

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
  • Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion Pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
  • Support Independent Media: Being publicly funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
  • Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!

You may also like...