December 9, 2008

Australians Urged To Eat Camels

Only months after being told to save the world from climate change by consuming kangaroos, Australians were urged Tuesday to start eating camels to keep them from wreaking environmental havoc.

Australia's population of more than a million feral camels "” the largest wild herd on earth "” is out of control and damaging fragile desert ecosystems and water sources, according to a three-year study.

In attempt to make its case, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center, which produced the report, plans to serve camel meat at a barbecue for senior public servants in Canberra on Wednesday.

The reports co-author, Professor Murray McGregor, believes the best way to bring down the camel population is to eat them.

"Eat a camel today, I've done it," he said. "It's beautiful meat. It's a bit like beef. It's as lean as lean, it's an excellent health food."

The same is being suggested for Australia's national emblem, the kangaroo.  But the government's chief climate change adviser warned in October that the rationale for farming and eating is different.

Professor Ross Garnaut said millions of farm animals such as cows and sheep produce massive amounts of harmful greenhouse gases, but kangaroos emit negligible amounts of methane.

Camels were brought to Australia as pack animals for the vast outback in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, but as rail and road travel became more widespread they started getting released into the wild.

For years, Australia has had its hands full with imported animals brought in as beasts of burden, food sources, recreational hunting and, ironically, to control agricultural pests.

The country's Department of the Environment currently lists animals of "significant concern" as including feral camels, horses, donkeys, pigs, European wild rabbits, European red foxes, cats, goats and cane toads.

The populations have soared because of few natural predators and vast sparsely populated areas in which to roam, putting pressure on native species by preying on them, competing for food, destroying habitats and spreading disease.


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