Eat a camel and save the planet, Australians are told

Not only is the meat low in fat, eating it could help to protect the fragile outback, in danger of being over-run by dromedaries

After trying to persuade Australians to eat kangaroo, emu and crocodile meat over the past few decades, the nation's agribusiness leaders have turned their attention to the ship of the desert.

Last week, senior public servants were served camel at a barbecue in Canberra as part of a campaign to convince the government to add the meat to Australia's bushtucker menu. Environmentalists say that camel burgers are not only better for you, but by eating them, Australians will also be doing their bit for climate change and conservation.

Camels, imported from the Canary Islands in 1840, have bred in such large numbers that the population is out of control. It is estimated that more than a million of the beasts now roam the outback, inflicting major damage on desert ecosystems, scarce water supplies and remote Aboriginal communities. As ruminants, with a tendency to expel greenhouse gases from both ends, the animals also add to global warming.

"We are very concerned that as the

climate changes and the continent dries out further, the camel impact will worsen as they throw more pressure on water resources," said Glenn Edwards, lead author of a new study from the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre. "Because camels are cautious animals and beautifully camouflaged, and because these areas are sparsely populated, most people are simply unaware of the sheer numbers of these pests – or the extent of the damage they are causing."

With the population growing at about 80,000 a year and the annual damage bill to farmers put at several million pounds,the government is being urged to order a cull. As many as 400,000 camels may have to be destroyed,the report concludes. "Our overall aim is to get the population density down to one camel for every 10 square kilometres eventually," Dr Edwards said. "This keeps the damage they can do within reasonable limits."

Murray McGregor, an agribusiness lecturer, believes that eating camel could provide the perfect solution. "It's beautiful meat," he said. "It's a bit like beef – it's as lean as lean, and it's an excellent health food." But if past experience is anything to go by, Australians may prove unwilling to toss a camel steak on the barbie. Previous attempts to market kangaroo have failed to excite domestic appetites, partly because of a natural reluctance to eat the national emblem.

While the camel may not have the same symbolic importance, it has played a significant role in Australian history. Under the care of Afghans, the one-hump Camelus dromedarius made a substantial contribution to the development of the outback. By 1901 there were an estimated 6,000 working camels in Australia, and they were still being used as recently as the 1950s. But as they were replaced by trains and motor vehicles, camels were allowed to run wild. Half a century later, Australia is counting the cost.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine