Turkey camel wrestling: animal rights activists slam festival

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(Reuters) — A traditional camel wrestling festival in western Turkey that draws thousands of people each year has been criticized by animal rights activists who say the big ruminants are mistreated and injured during the event.
The 40th International Camel Wrestling Festival was held in Selcuk, part of the Aegean province of Izmir, on Sunday, with 152 camels wearing saddles and decorative cloths and embroideries of various patterns and colors on their humps and necks.
The camels are taken to a sandy arena to tangle with umpires and other staff nearby, although they must wear muzzles to avoid bite wounds.
Thousands of people set up tables and chairs on a hillside next to the arena and grill, eat and drink while watching the animals romp.
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A man tries to stop a camel during the 40th Selcuk Ephesus Camel Wrestling Festival in Turkey.

Elif Ozturk Ozgoncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Gulgun Hamamcioglu, the Animal Rights Federation (HAYTAP) representative in Izmir, said it was a “great crime” to incite animals to fight.

“Please let’s all together stop this image of shame, this scene that makes us ashamed of humanity,” Hamamcioglu said.

Mehmet Falakali, former head of the Tourism Ministry’s Selcuk office, said the camels could not seriously injure each other and there were personnel to separate them if the clashes got too intense.
People watch camels wrestle with each other.

People watch camels wrestle with each other.

Elif Ozturk Ozgoncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“The people tasked with separating the camels pull them away from each other if the referee sees a (negative development),” he said.
“There’s certainly nothing better than them breaking each other’s hooves or biting each other,” added Falakali, who has helped organize the festival for the past 35 years.

Necip Cotura, who owns three camels and attends the festival as a hobby, said the event has a long tradition. “It’s something that’s made with love. It’s not a fight, it’s wrestling — just like people wrestle,” he said.

Yahya Yavuz, another participant, said that his family, like their children, take care of their four camels and that his camels would not harm others.

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