‘Shameful’ camel wrestling festival tradition ‘is done with love’, fans insist

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A huge camel wrestling festival has been slammed as "shameful" by animal rights campaigners.

Crowds in their thousands gathered in Selcuk, western Turkey on Sunday to watch the humped creatures fight in a large ring.

Activists claim the tradition is a "big crime" but fans of the 40 year old annual event have defended it as "something that is done with love."

Incredible pictures show some of the 152 camels adorned with colourful embroidered patterns as they go head to head with each other in a sandy arena.

A referee watches the animals score points in aggressive-looking rutting and neck tangling, a ban on biting is enforced by muzzles.

The so-called ships of the desert lock heads surrounded by people enjoying barbecues, eating and drinking.

Gulgun Hamamcioglu, the Izmir representative for the Animal Rights Federation (HAYTAP), said goading animals to fight each other was a "big crime."

He added: "Please let's all together stop this picture of shame, this scene that makes us ashamed of humanity."

Yet in defence of the festival, former tourism chief Mehmet Falakali said the camels cannot seriously hurt each other and personnel are always on hand to separate them if beginning to look nasty, CNN reports.

Mr Falakali who has helped organise the festival for the past 35 years, said: "The people who are tasked with separating the camels pull them away from each other when the referee sees a (negative development).

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"There is certainly nothing such as their breaking each others' hooves or biting each other."

Necip Cotura assured that he leads his three camels into the festival to wrestle like humans without any particular malice.

"It is something that is done with love. It is not a fight, it is wrestling – just like how humans wrestle," Mr Cotura said.

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Yahya Yavuz takes part in the festival with his four camels which get treated like his own children and would not got out to hurt others.

According to Turkey's Daily Sabah newspaper, wrestling provides camels with a chance "to live out their animalistic nature and exert energy in the way they were meant to do, all while under the watchful eye of their owners".

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Camel owners who are known as deveci prepare their beloved beasts for the festival by sourcing or even making decorative clothing for them.

If not a barbecue, fans take their own picnic to tuck into on deck chairs and over a portable table to make a whole day of it, Daily Sabah reports.

Of the eight provinces that host camel wresting festivals Izmir's Selçuk by far the most popular.

  • Animals
  • Family

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