camel dead 21345
One Hump or Two?
At the Centralian Gold abattoir outside Alice Springs, business is brisk. Scores of animals are brought in each week to be slaughtered, deboned and packaged into sausages, steaks and mince. But the largest slabs of meat on the racks are not beef, lamb or even kangaroo, but camel. Garry Dann, who owns the business, describes camel meat as “beautiful, healthy and organic” and says demand for the product is growing every month.

Mr Dann, who sells camel sausages, mince and steaks to restaurants across Australia, is at the forefront of a movement that wants to turn a “camel plague” in the outback into a lucrative and environmentally sustainable industry. The animals, which now number more than one million, are destroying fragile ecosystems and trampling all over indigenous sacred sites. They foul ancient water holes and chomp through the boughs of endangered native trees.

Travelling in large, aggressive packs, they prevent Aboriginal women from venturing into the countryside, for fear of being attacked or trampled. The situation is expected to get worse, with the camel population predicted to double every eight to 10 years unless action is taken.

The problem has grown so large that the Australian government recently pledged £10 million towards developing a camel control plan, which is expected to involve shooting them from helicopters. But instead of felling thousands of the beasts and leaving their carcases to rot, Mr Dann believes that the country’s most menacing pests can be harnessed into a viable agribusiness.

“I know blokes who all their lives have meat for breakfast, lunch and tea, and they wouldn’t know the difference between camel meat and beef,” said Mr Dann. “It’s all in the mind, we eat pigs, and pigs would eat you if they were given half the chance, but camels are lovely, intelligent creatures.”

His viewpoint is supported by environmentalists, who say that lean camel meat is not only healthier than beef and lamb but that by eating a beast known as “the ship of the desert” Australians would be doing their bit for climate change and conservation.