Such beautiful animals. We are partial to them. The question of their treatment in the various camel races around the world is a concern. This is a sport enjoyed in Australia, where the Camel Cup is held in July each year at Alice Springs and where there are probably standards and legislation in place to support humane treatment of animals and safety for both humans and animals.
However, camel racing – once a casual past-time in the east – is now big business and hugely popular among some elites in the Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Mongolia and probably elsewhere as well. Light riders are valued to facilitate wins. Hence children are used as jockeys. These are often children who have been trafficked from India, Sudan, and Pakistan.
This set-out to be a upbeat post on camels until we found out about these kids. Here is part of a report of a 2005 report of the U.S. Department of State on Human Trafficking:
The trafficking and exploitation of South Asian and African children as camel jockeys has burgeoned in the Gulf states, which, with the discovery of oil and the associated surge in wealth, transformed camel racing from a traditional Bedouin sports pastime to a multi-million dollar activity. Today, thousands of children, some as young as two years of age, are trafficked from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and countries in East Africa, and sold into slavery to serve as camel jockeys.
These children live in an oppressive environment and endure harsh living conditions. They work long hours in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, live in unsanitary conditions, receive little food, and are deprived of sleep so that they do not gain weight and increase the load on the camels they race. They are trained and kept under the watchful eyes of handlers, who employ abusive control tactics, including threats and beatings. Some are reportedly abused sexually. Many have been seriously injured and some have been trampled to death by the camels. Those who survive the harsh conditions are disposed of once they reach their teenage years. Having gained no productive skills or education, scarred with physical and psychological trauma that can last a lifetime, these children face dim prospects. They often end up leading destitute lives. Trafficked child camel jockeys are robbed of their childhoods and of their future. [Trafficking in Person Report, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, June 3, 2005]
Video upload to YouTube by PRI.
Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Department of State.