In November of last year I visited the incredibly romantic Pushkar Camel Fair for my second time. This yearly event is probably the most fascinating way to experience authentic and traditional Rajesthan culture. Each year thousands of villagers come together in this otherwise mellow Indian town. Along with them comes a sea of camels and other “livestock” to be bought and sold.
For one week the town comes alive with bursts of colour, vibrant folk music, dancing, magic shows, acrobats, hot-air balloon rides, endless shopping and spicy local cuisine. The fair is a hub of the local culture with the main attraction being the camels, who are native to this arid desert environment.
Each year this traditional fair grows as a tourist attraction bringing with it bus loads of tourists from around the globe anxious to experience this sensory overload. For thousands of tourists the Pushkar Fair is a once in a lifetime, unforgettable adventure.
As someone who loves to travel and experience the lives and traditions of others, I can understand the draw to the Pushkar Camel Fair. It is a truly extraordinary and enlightening experience for the visitors but for animals, it’s hell. The condition of almost every one of these gracious camels is horrible but even more troubling is the endless stream of jolly tourists seemingly unaware of the suffering around them. I was stunned at the hordes of people not even noticing the conditions the animals. All of whom were anxiously awaiting their turn to hand over their money, get their camel ride and financially support this abuse.
Is it possible that so many people do not notice the condition of almost every camel at the fair? Or are these tourists choosing to turn a blind eye to blatant animal cruelty and neglect? Maybe the masses of camel riding tourists feel that they are mere visitors in a strange land and that it is not appropriate to interfere. Well we already are interfering. It is a result of the high volume of foreign tourists that flock to the Pushkar Fair and pay for these camels rides that there is so much demand and in turn supply of suffering camels.
I am sure that at home these crowds would not tolerate such abuse and neglect. But here, on a once in a lifetime trip we choose to financially praise the owners of these animals by taking camel rides which will only make matters worse for the animals.
No matter where in the world we may find ourselves we have every right to stand up for animals that are suffering at the hands of humans, we especially should not be paying for it. I ask those with plans of travel in their future to refuse to contribute to the exploitation of animals in the name of tourism. Each of us have the power to prevent these practices from flourishing rather than encouraging them. Please don’t think that I want to extinguish the magic of the Pushkar Camel Fair and harm the livelihoods of the local people, I don’t. I merely want them to learn that tourists will not pay for abuse and neglect and that they must find kinder ways of profiting from tourism.
Please pass this blog onto anyone that may be planning a trip to India, or anywhere else for that matter. Also please share this blog with those that work in the travel industry and help spread the word that supporting animal abuse for tourism is not acceptable. As travellers we need to open our consciousness and stop financially supporting abuse, in every corner of the world.