The United Nations General Assembly declared 2024 as the International Year of Camelids with the unfortunate aim of exploiting them for their meat, milk, fibre and means of transport.

Therefore in January 2024 BWC wrote to the new CM of Rajasthan informing him that we had over the years managed to save from different places in India a great number of camels from animal sacrifice/slaughter and exploitation by way of joy-rides, and that they had been sent back to Rajasthan. If Rajasthan takes good care of its camels, we were sure they would not be sold and smuggled out of the state by the camel mafia. After all, the Rajasthan desert is their homeland. It provides them with an adequate and ideal diet along with climatic conditions that they require to thrive and remain healthy. We suggested vast sanctuaries with desert trees should be established where camels can live without being exploited for their milk, meat, hide or for transport/entertainment.

The different breeds of camels in India are: Bikaneri, Jaisalmeri, Kachchhi, Mewari and Jalori Camels.

The camel population has shown a declining trend over the last 4 Livestock Censuses, i.e. 17th (2003), 18th (2007), 19th (2012) and 20th (2019) when it was 2.5 lakh, having decreased by 37.1% over the previous Census.

The population of camels in India – at one time the third largest in the world – is on the decline. The Thar Desert of Rajasthan is their homeland. It provides them an adequate and ideal vegan diet along with climatic conditions that they require to thrive and remain healthy.

However, growing urban areas – industrialisation together with pressure on agricultural land, has led to the loss of the camels’ natural grazing land. Many desert trees like kumut, khejari, rohida, kair, jal and bordi consumed by camels have been uprooted for solar projects; moreover, the sharp edges of the panels themselves can hurt the camels.

Illegal slaughter for meat is another reason why their population is dipping. The Raika or Raibari community, considered the guardians of the camel breeding herds or tolas, never sold female camels to any one except from their community, but gradually the situation has changed and many are sold by them at Pushkar for meat. There was also a time when they never sold camel milk but shared free like during the famine that hit Rajasthan in 1937, believing that camels were just like their children.

A 1997 survey put the population of camels in Rajasthan at nearly 700,000. In 2003 there was a decline of about 23% (bringing down the number to 4,98,000) and another decline of 18% in 2007 when the next camel census was undertaken. So by 2012 it was not surprising that only 4,21,836 camels were said to be left in the state although the NRCC (National Research Centre on Camel) had earlier stated India had 5,17,000 camels. They also stated that only 8,800 of the Mewari breed – which is dwindling fast – are left and they are the ones that are good for milk production with an average of 7-8 litres per day, as compared to Jaisalmeri or Bikaneri breeds which produce on an average only 5-6 litres of milk per day.

In 2014, the Lokhit Pashu Palak Santhan (a NGO in Rajasthan that promotes camels and their produce) declared that the camel population had fallen from 4 lakh to 2 lakh in the state and it was imperative for the milk be legally sold. In 2019 they estimated that less than 0.2 million were left in Rajasthan because camels are being sold and breeding has fallen despite the Rajasthan government having introduced in 2016 the Ustra Vikas Yojana (Camel Development Scheme) under which Rs 10,000/- would be given in three instalments after camel is born. They are no longer needed for transportation across the desert since roads have been constructed for vehicles. Similarly tractors have replaced camels ploughing fields like synthetic fertilisers have taken the place of camel manure and last but not least there are hardly are grazing grounds and pastures (the Forest Department needs to be paid Rs 100/- annually per camel for grazing in sanctuaries).

An all-India estimate of the 2014-15 camel population was therefore no more than 3 lakh, that is 2 lakh in Rajasthan and 1 lakh in Gujarat with the latter fast declining.

The lifespan of a camel is 20 years. It starts breeding at about 4 years but conceives once in 2½ years. There is therefore no way in which their numbers can multiply fast.


Although there are camels in Uttar Pradesh also, every month about 6,000 from Rajasthan are taken there. They are either illegally slaughtered for their meat, leather and bones, or are smuggled live along with cows to Bangladesh (via other states) where they are killed for meat. Made to walk great distances, even though their feet bleed, they undergo great hardships en route their destination.

Likewise, thousands more are taken out of Rajasthan and land up in different states and cities of India where they are commercially exploited. Despite suffering and eventually dying, it is a pity that Rajasthan has not been able to totally implement its ban on camels from going out of the state, not to say that camels within the state are not exploited.

Unfortunately, camels from Rajasthan were also taken to different states like Jharkhand and used extensively as "campaign vehicles" for the 2009 elections. They were draped in banners and made to move around the city for Rs 500/- to Rs 1000/- per day. It is sad that the politicians showed no concern for the animals.

In India camels are native to Rajasthan and Gujarat; their physiology is suited to a dry desert climate (hot day, cool night) because they can go for long periods without drinking water and their padded feet are suited to soft desert sands. Camels therefore find it difficult to walk long distances and adjust to humid climatic conditions since they are desert animals. During the monsoon, most of them get contagious diseases such as anthrax and suffer and die, often without the required medical treatment. Also, outside Rajasthan and Gujarat, they do not get their ideal diet of desert shrubs and plants as a result of which they do not keep good health. BWC has therefore written more than once to both the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Gujarat pleading that they totally ban the export of camels from their states. Likewise, BWC has also requested the government of Uttar Pradesh to ban import and export.

In fact, for decades BWC has been writing to the Rajasthan government about the terrible plight of camels, so few months before July 2014 when state heritage status was accorded to the camel, BWC was pleased to receive a letter from the government saying they were considering it and that they planned on passing legislation to effectively check smuggling and slaughter of camels out of the state. BWC reiterated its stand and strongly suggested that the proposed law should not only stop camels being subjected to physical cruelty (e.g. use of nose-pegs, and over-loading) and commercial exploitation (e.g. entertainment, camel racing, and safaris) within the state, but a ban on them leaving Rajasthan should be enforced as soon as possible. The Raibari community objected that their animals needed to be migrated out of the state for grazing and mating. That they are bought and sold by camel mafia and land up being slaughtered they were reluctant to acknowledge.


In March 2015 the Rajasthan Camel Bill 2014 declared the camel endangered because there were less than 2 lakh animals left in the state. By banning its slaughter and export, the bill granted the camel a legal status on par with the cow. Prohibition of slaughter and regulation of temporary migration or exports of camels to prevent slaughter, illegal trade and transportation are included along with promotion of camel milk in the state’s food security programme. The Raibari community believe camel milk cures for malaria if consumed for 10-12 days.


A year earlier, soon after granting the camel state animal status (the chinkara also enjoys this status) Rajasthan woke up to the so-called therapeutic potential of camel milk and approached the Food Safety and standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to legalise its sale. If not as food – as medicine! But, FSSAI did not agree for some years despite the claim that it imparts several health benefits and supposedly has aphrodisiacal properties too. They eventually gave the green signal in 2017. Interestingly, in the late 1990s the Rajasthan High Court had ruled camel milk was unfit for human consumption and although the Supreme Court overturned the ruling a year later, FSSAI had refused to legalise its sale. In USA too a camel milk firm was warned in 2017 over health benefit claims. Yet Australia with its biggest herd of wild camels in the world has been expanding its global milk supply.


Camels are put under great stress: made to give “joy-rides” to many adults and children, and are frequently taken in processions where loud crackers are burst and there is a lot of commotion. When exhausted, they collapse and cry out in pain, but are forcefully pulled forward with ropes strung through the metal rings in their nostrils.

No wonder they retaliate. If tourists were wise about their own safety and had compassion for animals, they would not ride camels, elephants, ponies, etc. In January 2015 a man in Ahmedabad was killed by a camel that bit him on his head; his caretaker who tried to stop the attack was also bitten on his leg, but survived. This goes to prove that not only do elephants get angry, but so do other animals and hit out at humans.


In 2009 the Karnataka High Court forbid camels to be brought into the state due to climatic conditions being unsuitable for them resulting in several deadly infectious diseases like anthrax which put other animals and humans at risk. According to the Dean of the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences at Hebbal, Bengaluru, camels made to walk in unsuitable climatic conditions with lack of food, rest and water en route, found the journey so stressful that they developed diseases such as tryanosomiases, bronco-pneumonia, intracellular haemoprotozoam, anthrax and even rabies.

At Bakri Eid, the unfortunate are not only bakris – camels and cattle are some times also illegally killed for feasting – on Ramzaan Eid as well. In November 2005, some BWC members in Kochi found that two camels had been brought to Kochi for feasting on camel meat. On receiving complaints the Kochi Corporation banned their slaughter. The owner of the camels approached the Kerala High Court but before the case could conclude one of the camels died due to poor living conditions and an improper diet. The judgement pronounced that the other camel could not be slaughtered on the grounds that there was no provision for slaughtering camels within the corporation limits, there was no qualified vet to certify its fitness for slaughter or suitability of its meat for human consumption, and that there was no one licensed to slaughter or sell camel meat.

Court cases have concluded that sacrificing animals such as camels, cows and calves, is not a religious requirement at Bakri Eid and therefore illegal. In 2014 after Rajasthan granted state heritage status to the camel, their sacrifice for Bakri Eid automatically stopped within the state. For example, the Tonk royal family discontinued the 150 year tradition. However, camels were sacrificed in other parts of the country. For example, at Varanasi a local newspaper subtly promoted the sacrifice of 5 camels.

BWC supported People for Cattle in India’s PIL resulting in the Chennai High Court passing an interim order banning camel slaughter for religious purposes in Tamil Nadu. This was in September 2016 before Bakri Eid – as per media reports no camels were killed in Chennai in 2016; and, in response to an RTI query by PFCI, the Madurai Police said one camel had been sacrificed for which an FIR had been filed and investigations were underway. The previous year about 100 camels had been sacrificed in Tamil Nadu. But in 2017 not a single camel was brought into the state or sacrificed for Bakri Eid. In April 2022, a favourable order to the PIL was granted. The earlier order had stopped camels from being slaughtered or sacrificed, whereas the final order included trafficking with the Judges stating “We dispose of it with a direction to the respondents to take all the measures to stop illegal trafficking of camel or slaughtering…” The Judges appreciated the effort of the petitioners.

In 2019 BWC approached over 55 persons including the Prime Minister of India, Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, District Magistrates, Bureaucrats and Police personnel of Uttar Pradesh, the Animal Welfare Board of India and many others in the Uttar Pradesh administration requesting that a Notification be issued to stop camels from entering the state or being sacrificed for Bakri Eid. We stated that in 2018 camels had been killed in Varanasi, Mau and other places particularly in western UP because the police and authorities had not enforced the ban on killing large animals as directed by the CM.

We also pointed out that while the Border Security Force did not have sufficient camels to guard the border, they were being slaughtered and thus national security was being compromised. A copy of Madras High Court judgement obtained y People or Cattle in India with financial support of BWC that prohibited camel slaughter was also sent. And the Rajasthan government’s consistent efforts to protect camels including not allowing them to leave the state for slaughter purposes, was also informed.

We succeed in as much that the government ensured that a mandi where hundreds of camels were traded for slaughter each year before the festival was not organized in Mau. It was also incredibly true that a day earlier on getting to know that 5 camels had been kept hidden for sacrifice in Varanasi, the Police located them with the help of camera drones and they were saved. Another 2 camels were rescued from Jaunpur. And, these 7 were taken over by PETA. Earlier on clear cut directions from the DGP UP the Police rescued 22 camels (including one that was surrendered) via camera drones locating them being traded in Meerut (western UP) and arranged to also send them back to Rajasthan.

Not a single camel was slaughtered in India for Bakri Eid 2020. BWC wrote to the Prime Minister, and Chief Ministers with copies to all District Magistrates and Police of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, because in the past camels had either being killed or appeals had been made for their sacrifice in these states. We sent them the landmark Judgement of the Madras High Court and requested them to stop entry, sale and slaughter of camels. Meanwhile, Rajasthan assured us they would stop camels being smuggled out. Since the Border Security Force was short of camels, in 2014 the state had passed laws for their protection. BWC also approached the Animal Welfare Board of India following which a circular was issued by the Secretary to all states’ Chief Secretaries, Director Generals of Police and Animal Husbandry Directors.

In January 2022 the Hyderabad High Court conveying satisfaction over steps being taken by the state to protect camels brought to Telangana from Rajasthan closed a PIL. The bench had asked the state to ensure that the camels found were safely sent back to Rajasthan which was been done.

As stated above in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by People for Cattle in India (PFCI) with financial backing from BWC, the Madras High Court had in 2016 forbidden slaughtering/sacrificing of camels; then in 2022 the HC ordered no trafficking of camels in the state. In view of these orders, five camels were seized by the Tamil Nadu Police in April 2023. They were immediately transported by a team of volunteers from People for Animals (PFA) and PFCI from Soolagiri, Krishnagiri District to the PFA shelter at Thiruvallur District, Chennai. Shree Vardhaman Sthanakvasi Jain Sangh Walkeshwar from Mumbai paid in part via BWC to shift them to safety. BWC wrote to the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Gujarat and sent them pictures of the seized camels. We told them that only if the camels were healthy, which was not always so since they were made to walk for months to reach their destinations, could they be easily returned to their state of origin. If not, they needed to be kept in a shelter for the rest of their lives which was both financially and physically difficult for animal welfare organizations. Sending them back was also difficult and expensive. In view of this, it was imperative for the government to ensure that not a single camel went out of the state.

An NGO had written to the Governor of Maharashtra and the Animal Welfare Board of India alleging illegal movement of 200 camels from Rajasthan, following which in May 2023, first 111 and then 43 camels were seized in Nashik and Malegaon. Of these 13 died due to exhaustion and inadequate food during the long journey on foot. A few days later, it was announced that the surviving 98+42 camels would be sent back again on foot to Rajasthan via Shrimad Rajchandra Jivamaitri Dham, Dharampur, Gujarat, for rehabilitation at the Mahavir Camel Sanctuary in Sirohi. BWC wonders what happened to the balance since they were 200 had left Rajasthan. Moreover BWC felt they may have only been passing though Maharashtra, their destination being some other states where they could be sacrificed for Bakri Eid.

A month before Bakri Eid 2023 BWC again began sending letters to the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, District Magistrates and Police sending the copies of the Madras HC judgments etc. reiterating that camel killing was illegal and requesting them to stop entry, sale and slaughter. Except for information received from an undisclosed source that camels were slaughtered in Telangana, BWC presumes the Police took action everywhere else and they were not allowed to enter the states and were therefore not sacrificed particularly in Uttar Pradesh.


Camel racing in the Middle East (with young children as jockeys) and Australia, and the Camel Festival – including beauty pageant for camels – held in Dubai are some of the internationally organised events involving camels. At the XII International Camel Race in Kebd, Kuwait, the organisers said that in 2005 human jockeys had been replaced by robots with owners whipping the racing camels via remotes. This was because camel owners bought children of small frames for the purpose. So some children got saved, but no camels.

In India, Kartik Purnima is the time when the world’s largest Cattle Fair takes place in Sonepur, near Patna. During this fortnight-long festival called the Harihar Kshetra Mela, a million heads of cattle were adorned and sold; horses and camels were also traded. In fact, different species of animals and birds sold included cows, oxen, buffaloes, dogs, and birds/parrots. But, following the government’s ban on sale, heavily decorated elephants were merely displayed or gifted – actually sold but “gifted” on paper. Each year this fair, originally known as Malegaon Mela, has more and more theatre performances by skimpily clad dance girls, and lesser animals traded. In 2018 there were no animals or birds other than a few hundred horses which have become the main attraction, and 131 cows.


India’s second largest Cattle Fair is at Nagaur in Rajasthan. In addition to cows, bullocks and oxen, camels and horses are traded, and camel racing is included in the festivities along with illegal cock-fights. In fact, camel rides, races, dances, acrobatics and some times camel polo are a part of all the Desert Festivals like that at Jaisalmer. At the famous Bikaner Camel Festival every January, a pageant is held in which decked up camels are made to dance. In January 2015 at the 22nd International Camel Festival, a decked up camel was made to precariously balance itself on its hind legs on a charpai (a bed consisting of a wooden frame strung with tapes or a light rope).


Camels and horses have been introduced at Asia’s biggest donkey fair, a 500 year old traditional festival of Sanganer, near Jaipur, organised by the All-India Donkey Development Mela Committee at which donkeys are traded and also made to race.


Camel safaris across Rajasthan are organised to attract tourists. They were started in 1987 by Tourism of India and involve people being taken for long rides like on the sands of Jaisalmer. Believe it or not, the Armed Forces Medical College, in 2008 organised a week long camel safari covering 130 kms and 6 villages for medical cadets who conducted health education lectures and surveyed immunisation of children in the Barmer district of Rajasthan.


Races involving animals such as camels, donkeys, elephants and buffaloes are organised as a kind of novelty or attraction at a fair or some other function without showing any consideration whatsoever for the poor animals involved. The worst of these is possibly the camel races at the annual Pushkar Fair, near Ajmer, again in Rajasthan, where as many as a dozen persons sit atop a single bedecked camel, made to race other camels. They lope over the sand throwing riders off their backs – the one that carries the most number of people wins. Unfortunately, camels are increasingly kept in the desert solely for sports like such racing and fights or unth laddi (hardly for transportation purposes) since it involves winning cash prizes. Some camels are even trained to give “dance” performances by throwing their legs around awkwardly while sprinting across the ground. In 2009 less than 20,000 camels were seen at the fair, but ten years earlier about 50,000 were present. Trading in and competitions for cattle and camels, camel beauty contests (for which their noses are pierced for a ring to be inserted and their fur meticulously cut-out in intricate patterns and dyed resulting in typical carpet designs having flowers, birds and geometrical shapes), selling of finery, saddles, whips and footwear is all an integral part of this fair. Ironically, the leather as well as bone jewellery sold is of camel origin.

Interestingly in 2018 a dozen camels were disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest after receiving botulinum toxin injections to make their pouts look more alluring. The camels are judged for delicate ears, full snouts and droopy lips. Drugs in the lips, shaved or clipped body parts and plastic surgery are strictly disallowed. About 30,000 camels participate for prizes worth 20m Saudi Riyals (over Rs 34 crore).


In 2016 of the 8,871 animals (camels, horses, bullocks, buffaloes and sheep) that were brought to Pushkar fair, on 2,453 were sold. Similarly at the Sonepur mela lesser animals were traded because of the demonitisation around that time.

In 2018 a male camel that could have fetched Rs 20,000 about a decade earlier at Pushkar could not even be sold for half the price – Rs 1,000/- was all that was offered. Unfortunately the only demand for camels was from the illegal meat trade.

In four years between 2015 and 2019 the number of animals sold at the Pushkar fair had dropped by 75%. And in 2019 camels gave the Pushkar fair a miss. By then the camel population of India had fallen outside the top 20 with just 2.5 lakh camels left, whereas in 1991 the camel population was so high that India was ranked 7th worldwide.

In 2021 after a gap of 2 years (due to Covid-19) the Pushkar fair renamed Pushkar Hat Mela was back and herders brought in camels and equines. Also safari and camping packages were offered to tourists for a week. 

In November 2022 about 800 to 1000 camels and their herders reached Pushkar Fair from far away districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pali and Sirohi, (some of who had covered around 800 kms on foot over 30 to 40 days) only to be informed that there was a ban on selling camels in order to pre-empt LSD (lumpy skin disease) spreading from cows to camels. However, more than 500 camel carts belonging to hotels and resorts continued ferry tourists around Pushkar town.

Exploited to the Hilt

Camel hide is not only commonly used in Rajasthan for slippers/mojadis and for kupis (decorative painted/embossed bottles for perfume/oil/water) but entire pieces of furniture, bags, doors and artefacts like lampshades, vases and bowls are covered with camel leather, some of which is embossed in gold and other colours. Usta artists who do this Cordwain work (i.e. decorating leather for walls by embossing/painting) refuse to compromise and use artificial leather. Their work adorns walls and ceilings of both Hindu shrines and Muslim dargahs.

Camel hide/skins/leather is considered stronger than bovine hide/leather. It is tanned as “fur-on” and “fur-off”, is available as matt finish in a variety of colours and called wet-blue, crust or finished leather; and, is made into hats, boots and fashion garments in Australia.

On the other hand, experiments with camel excreta to produce paper are being undertaken in North America and Europe.

Thought of as the model of endurance, in India camels still help plough land as well as transport humans and goods. In Churu district camels are used to pull novel double-decker school busses. Camel caravans operate on the outskirts of many towns in Rajasthan. However, BWC has to its horror come across so-called animal rights people, who, instead of working to end such exploitation, recommend the use of camels, elephants and monkeys for pulling loads in sugar and other factories!

The National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC) situated in Rajasthan on the outskirts of Bikaner at Jorbeer has improved the traditional camel cart by installing electric indicators to avoid accidents after dusk. The NRCC, initially under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research was started with the mandate of developing infrastructure facilities for conservation and preservation of existing breeds of camel in arid and semi-arid regions and to generate scientific and technical information.

Sadly, the NRCC is now giving emphasis on transforming the "ship of the desert" into a milch animal and so a modern camel dairy has been set up at its campus. (120 litres of milk is produced daily at NRCC, of which 50% is sent to Faridkot in Punjab for distribution among mentally challenged children. Earlier it was reported that every day the Rajasthan Milk Federation collected 1,000 litres of camel milk and sold it in tetra packs as far as Delhi.) Plus, different camel herds have been subjected to the unnatural embryo transfer technique and selective breeding for genetic improvement of indigenous breeds. The females have been made to super ovulate and with the aim of reproducing thrice, instead of twice, in two years.

In addition to milk products, camel milk based derma-cream has been developed, the use of camel bone in place of ivory is encouraged (like carved statuettes, idols, prayer beads, lamp stands, boxes, bowls, photo frames, chess sets and inlay handicrafts), as also coloured, polished and embossed trendy camel bone jewellery, and camel hair blended with wool. A Kullu weaver’s cooperative produces caps and stoles made from a mixture of fine camel wool and silk. A NGO near Udaipur has begun producing handmade paper from camel dung. And in 2011 an Indo-German endeavour to manufacture such paper inaugurated its factory near Sadri in Rajasthan.

In April 2011 the NRCC announced that a white camel (not an albino) had been born and that they were carefully monitoring it and researchers would undertake genetic studies.

Meanwhile, the Veterinary College at Anand Agricultural University, Gujarat, claimed after testing on rats (?) that camel milk is beneficial to those suffering from diabetes and other diseases. Among several benefits derived, it contains approximately 52 units of an insulin-like protein per litre. Then in 2012, citing such benefits of camel milk, a news item reported that Gujarat planned on setting up a dairy for processing camel milk. Eventually in 2017 after FSSAI relented (political pressure?) and gave permission to the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd for which the Kutch based Sarhad Dairy began processing camel milk under the Amul brand. The milk is from two breeds of camels: Katchchi and Kharai. BWC feels the procurement, processing, selling and consumption of camel milk is bad enough, we only hope it doesn’t lead to cruel intensive farming of camels as in Australia.

In November 2019 a 5-member Rajasthan state committee met camel breeders of the Raika and Rebari communities, and unfortunately agreed to push for lifting the ban on trade of camels to other states, and to request the Centre to allow export. The reason behind this was that the value and sale of camels had fallen considerably after the Bill was passed.

News from Abroad

Luckily camel wrestling is not part of celebrations in India. In countries like Afghanistan and Turkey, particularly around the Persian New Year, after two male camels are led into the arena, a young female camel that is on heat, is paraded around them. This makes the males excited and aggressive enough to fight each other. At Turkey’s Selçuk championship 20,000 spectators enjoy watching camel duels – while eating camel meat.

In January 2011, a group of Arab researchers announced that based on camels’ strong immune systems, they had developed a medical formula for treating cancer using camel’s milk and urine. They said that experiments conducted on mice had proved to be 100% successful.


All over the country camels, elephants and horses traditionally feature in festivals, religious functions and wedding processions. They are also made to perform and/or exhibited in circuses and occasionally welcome foreigners at particular venues for which they are covered in typical Rajasthani finery.

Camels, ponies, and elephants are used for "joy-rides" too, particularly in hill stations and tourist resorts, on beaches and in city-parks. The conditions under which these animals are kept are often pathetic. It is not uncommon for them to be loaded with the maximum number of adults and children they can physically hold. Naturally, some riders get thrown off. Both Indian and foreign tourists are responsible for patronising such "joy-rides" as is the government for allowing or offering them: for example, the Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation offer “joy-rides” on camels and horses at the parking lot near the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Not only are animals exploited, but the business of “joy-rides” exploits children by making them work for a living. It is not uncommon for them to be seen roaming around looking for customers. For example in July 2016 the Times of India printed a picture of an eight-year old boy leading a camel in Chinchwad (Pune) in search of people to ride the animal. He stated that on good days he earned Rs 500 but business was bad because of the monsoon.

In 1996 Beauty Without Cruelty played a leading role in obtaining a High Court ruling to stop the entry of camels into Mumbai, and to rehabilitate the existing ones back in the Rajasthan desert so that the “joy-rides” on Juhu beach became history.

In 2014, thanks to the efforts of animal activists and support of the Animal Welfare Board of India, the BRS Nagar Dassehra Committee, Ludhiana, abided by directions and cancelled camel and elephant rides at their forthcoming fair.

There is a double-humped Bactrian camel which is found across sand dunes 150 kms from Leh. Several decades ago they were used as pack animals, but now they are bred to attract tourists. For most tourists a camel safari is very much a part of their trip to Ladakh.

No joy

In states other than Rajasthan, a considerable number of camels are seen on the roads. They are made to give rides to kids and adults and participate in processions. Some are utilised for carrying advertisement banners on their sides and made to walk long distances and in crowded areas. Camel rides are also promoted at resorts such as Choki Dhani.

Few people realise the cruelty involved. First and foremost, the poor animals have been walked all the way to far off destinations covering thousands of miles. The people who exploit them consider the animals to be replaceable commodities. A group of people with about 6-10 camels usually settle down illegally next to a local market yard so that free vegetable waste is accessible. Camels are desert animals and they are unable to adjust to different climatic conditions, especially humidity. This leads to them falling ill frequently and succumbing to diseases such as anthrax. Sick camels have been abandoned to die on highways to avoid medical expenses.

Awaiting Police Ban

It was heartening that in 2009 the Pune Police banned the use of camels (horses and elephants) taking part in processions. The restriction came about because of increasing cases of injury and human death due to the chaos that is created by traffic and bursting of crackers on roads. But, unfortunately, the ban in practice was short lived, and that too with frequent exceptions.

BWC is persistently demanding a ban, and has brought to the notice of the Police the illegal entry and use of camels in Pune. As per the provisions of the Acts and laws mentioned below which are binding on the Pune Police, camels should be banned from Pune:

* The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Brihan Mumbai has issued a notification under the clause (b) of sub section (1) of section 33 read with sub section (2) of section 10 of the Bombay Police Act 1951, inter alia gives the following directions:

(1) No person shall bring into any urban area or park thereof the city of Mumbai from any place outside such area or part thereof, for the purpose of joy rides and/or entertainment and/or any other commercial purpose.

(2) No person shall bring into any urban area or any part thereof including public places in the city of Mumbai, any camel from any place outside such area or part thereof, for the purpose of joy rides as they result in danger/obstruction / inconvenience to the public.

(3) No person shall use in the area of Brihan Mumbai from the date of this notification any "CAMEL" for the purpose of joy rides and/or entertainment and/or any other commercial purpose.

* Under the provisions of Bombay Police Act, 1951 Chapter VI Section 74 to 78, the Police are empowered to take action under the Act LIX of 1960.

* The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Chapter III Section 11.

More than once BWC visited the site where at least 25 camels are kept in deplorable open-to-sky conditions at Pune and informed not only the Police Commissioner, but also wrote to the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra for the first time in June 2011 urging him to direct an immediate ban because of the onset of the monsoon. It was also pointed out that camels brought from the desert regions to hill-stations of Lonavla and Khandala also suffered greatly due to unsuitable climatic and other conditions.

BWC’s continuous efforts over years to stop camels entering Pune have unfortunately failed, but we won’t give up. The saving grace is that in response to frequent requests made to the Pune Police by the Sarva Jeev Mangal Pratishthan and Beauty Without Cruelty, they began issuing orders banning the use of animals (camels, elephants, horses, ponies and cattle) in processions and rallies. The first such order was passed for Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti celebrated on 19 March 2014. However, some months later in November 2014 an old gentleman while walking on the road was knocked down by a horse that gave joy rides. He suffered grave head injuries requiring six-hour surgery, was in a coma, and eventually died after a fortnight.

Camel rides are also offered to tourists in other climatically unsuitable places in Maharashtra like Panchgani, Mahableshwar, Alibaug and Diveagar. There too the poor animals suffer from skin infections, diarrhoea and painful joints. When they can not be cured they are simply abandoned. No record is kept of their numbers – not even when they succumb to infectious diseases like anthrax during the monsoon. The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 adversely affected the livelihoods of camel keepers an in turn the camels, despite them moving to different places within Maharashtra.

Camel Meat

Camel meat is not as common in India as it is in some other countries. To begin with, camel meat is illegal because to the best of our knowledge no slaughter houses in India have issued licences for camels to be killed. Around 2004 some rich Muslims of Hyderabad began buying and sacrificing camels in Hyderabad. From Andhra Pradesh the practice spread to other southern states like Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and even West Bengal. They are slaughtered for Bakri Eid in open spaces and even in residential areas, on streets and by-lanes in flagrant violation of municipal laws and health regulations. Moreover the killings indisputably contravene state laws pertaining to animal sacrifice. And how can any one forget that the poor camels have unsuspectingly walked thousands of kilometres from the Thar desert with their treacherous herders who ultimately sell them for sacrificial slaughter?

In December 2023 the Delhi Police seized a truck carrying approximately 5,000 kgs of meat and officials of the FSSAI collected samples including a tail of a camel for testing. Upon testing the report of the food analyst stated it was “camel meat (major content), buffalo and cow meat (in minor content)”.


Pastirma is seasoned and dried meat of camel – it can also be the meat of a pig, buffalo, lamb or goat, but that of camel is the most prized. It is produced and consumed mainly in Turkey, the Middle East and East European countries.

Jerky are thin strips of marinated, burnt camel-meat which along with camel steaks, are traditional fancy foods promoted in Australia.

Cloning Camels

Cloning techniques continue to be experimented upon in different countries and involve different species, the camel being one of them. For example, Injaz (achievement in Arabic) was the 12th domestic camel cloned at Dubai's Camel Reproduction Centre in April 2009. The animal is the clone of a camel slaughtered for its meat.

Closer home, in August 2010, the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal, declared that they had registered unique genetic and physical characteristics of 135 breeds of buffaloes, goats, sheep, camels, poultry, etc. which they claimed to be the first step towards conserving these breeds.

Camel Hair

Not a single hair of a "Camel" paint brush is derived from a camel! "Camel" was the name of the man who owned the brand, which uses inexpensive hair types like those of goats, sheep, oxen (ear hair), horses, ponies, lower-grade squirrel hair, or blends of these. As for camel hair, it can be found mixed into woollen suiting manufactured by many well-known companies.

Camel Corps

The Nachna breed of camels is used for ceremonial occasions by the Camel Mounted Band of the Border Security Force (BSF) which holds the Guinness World Record for being the only one of its kind in the world. The contingent mounted upon 100 camels, playing bugles and trumpets in tune with the tinkling bells of the camels, marches at the Republic Day Parade every year, and has been appreciated by many foreign dignitaries.

Two months before Republic Day 2011, around 200 men and 92 camels from the BSF moved to Delhi and began daily rehearsals culminating in participation during the parade. On a ground off Palam Road they pitched 60 tents. Their daily practice routine began at 4 am when the camels were woken and fed. After puja the soldiers walked up to the camels and untied the knot that held them in place, gave them water to drink, placed saddles (with red cloth underneath them) on their backs after which all the camels galloped in their designated spaces to the far end of the ground. At 6.15 am, they left for South Block which took them 1½ hours. A musical band accompanied the contingent. At 7.30 am they reached Vijay Chowk where they rested for around 2½ hours waiting to rehearse on the Rajpath stretch.

Other breeds, the Bikaneri and Jaisalmeri, are the ones that are trained by the BSF to dodge bullets, transport rations, carry light artillery and rescue wounded men. In fact the BSF have a 700-strong contingent of camels that patrol the 1,400 km Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Camels that are about 5 years old are bought by the BSF at fairs and are put through rigorous training for up to a year. They are basically taught to obey commands such as sit, up, drink, buckle down, crawl, duck, etc. Trainers say they are moody and have short memories so need to practise what they are taught continuously – so much so, that a two day gap would take them back to learning from scratch.

Camels that are not docile fly into a temper lunge-forth and bite; some others may growl, foam at the mouth and refuse to obey commands; whereas some get aggressive when a female camel is nearby. Therefore they are all controlled by ropes and muzzles and some times plied with treats of gur to coax them to stop sulking. And, after 15 years of service, when they are no longer needed, they are sold off at auctions.

The BSF say camels are cheaper, they cost only Rs 90/- a day, they're eco-friendly – no polluting fumes, no punctures or breakdowns, and no spare parts required. True… but, at the cost of camel lives... training is cruel and based on submission, but who cares to even know?


In August 2013, BWC was happy to receive the following e-mail referring to this very website page on Camels:

“I have just been searching for articles on the treatment of camels in Rajasthan because I was looking into importing Bone Inlay Furniture from Rajasthan into Australia. I thank you for your article and after reading it, have asked the supplier of the furniture if, there is a different material that is not derived from bone that can be used. I am unable, after reading your article, to go ahead and import the camel bone furniture into Australia, even though it is very beautiful, knowing that the animals have not been treated properly…”

In this connection, we would like to inform readers that most inlay work contained ivory till such time as it got banned. Bone and horn have completely replaced ivory. Mother-of-pearl and shells are also used for inlay work on wood and marble. Plastic is uncommon in India, but if asked for, bone is often passed off as plastic. However, Bidriware is metal and contains no animal products.

Page last updated on 08/02/24