If you can’t wait for RuPaul’s Drag Race to pick up again on Thursday but are looking for a serving of drama and beauty, turn your eyes to the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. Considered the world’s largest camel festival, the month-long Saudi Arabian event features 30,000 camels and has featured a beauty pageant since 2000. This pageant is the centerpiece of the show, with $31.8 million on the line for its winners.
As with any beauty pageant, the camels are judged for their looks, and those with the biggest heads and droopiest lips are considered to be the hottest. However, according to a report released Tuesday by The National, a United Arab Emirates news site, some people have not been content with leaving the beauty of their camels to genetic fate. During the Festival, a veterinarian was caught performing plastic surgery on the camels and injecting them with botulinum toxin, a chemical you know much better as Botox.
“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips, and even the jaw,” Ali al-Mazrouei, a son of a top Emirati breeder, told The National. “It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s like, ‘Oh look at how big that head is. It has big lips, a big nose.”
The strangest part is that they would use Botox to enhance these features at all.
The alleged reason Botox was used was to make the size of the camel’s head and lips look extra large. But when human women want lip augmentation, the procedure they receive typically involves hyaluronic acid “fillers,” which are injected into the lips to make them larger. Botox is sometimes paired with such injectables, plastic surgeon Dr. Dara Liotta told Allure, in order to create a “poutier look,” but the Botox itself doesn’t cause an increase in size directly. What actually happens is that the toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, relaxes the muscles around the mouth and rolls the lip outward, supporting the illusion of bigger lips.
So what would just injecting Botox into a camel do? In addition to helping camels appear to have bigger noses and droopier lips, the purpose of injecting the drug, made from the same toxin that causes botulism, into humans is to paralyze certain muscles, temporarily smoothing facial wrinkles, treating chronic migraines, and preventing severe underarm sweating. The effect of the can last between three to twelve months.
While not the ideal result of the drug, swelling is a common side effect, so perhaps these big headed and big-lipped camels are all suffering from Botox gone wrong.
Because clipping ears to make them look more delicate or using drugs on the animals in any way is prohibited by festival rules, the revelation that Botox was being used in the competition led to the disqualification of 12 camels. When the New York Times reached out to him about the controversy, Nick Stewart of the advocacy group World Animal Protection expressed shock that this would even happen.
“There is no justification to use Botox on camels,” Steward told the Times. “Such an unnecessary act is cruel and demeaning. We understand that camels are a national treasure in Saudi Arabia, but animals should not be abused for entertainment, there should be more respect for the animals’ well-being.”
Other festival participants told The National that they are pushing for the accused to receive a fine, but for now this hump of public shaming will have to do.