09 April 2010

Camel steak

Last year, CNBC anchor Erin Burnett reacted strongly on air to reports of Australia's plan to cull wild camels. As reported by ABC (Australia)

Erin Burnett, an anchor on American financial news channel CNBC, launched a verbal attack targeting Mr Rudd following the Federal Government's decision to spend $19 million culling feral camels in the outback.

"There is a serial killer in Australia and we are going to put a picture up so we can see who it is," a stern-faced Burnett said during a segment on CNBC on Tuesday.

A large photo of Mr Rudd was then shown.

"That would be the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd," Burnett said.

"OK, well, do you know what he is doing?

"He has launched air strikes - air strikes - against camels in the outback."

Burnett, with a stuffed toy camel sitting in front of her, broke away from her usual analysis of stock movements on Wall St to vent about the camel cull.

She raised the issue during a segment with CNBC's colourful financial guru Jim Cramer.

Burnett said there were one million camels living wild in Australia and the animals would be shot.

"They are slaughtering them?" Cramer, looking shocked, asked Burnett.

"They are slaughtering them," Burnett replied.

She also complained the meat and milk from the camels would be wasted.

"Apparently there is $1 billion of meat out there," Burnett said.

"Are they going to do anything with it?" Cramer asked.

"No. They're just slaughtering them," she said.

"That's genocide. Camelcide," Cramer commented.

Burnett then told Cramer she hoped Australians would see her segment.

"I hope they have this on in the morning in Australia," she said.

As the discussion came to a close the photo of Rudd re-appeared on the screen.

"There he is," Burnett said.

"That is the man who approved it."

Erin Burnett is well known for having a fascination for camels. At the time, it was hard to tell whether her statement was expressing an outrage that camels would be killed, or that she was concerned that the killing would be wasteful.

An American journal, The Atlantic Monthly, has now suggested that camels should be eaten.

Camels were first brought to Australia from the Canary Islands in the 1840s as beasts of burden. They carried goods across the harsh, Martian-red desert. As roads were built, they were gradually released into the wild. Now Australian camels make up the largest wild herd in the world, numbering about a million. With no natural predators, they are expected to double in population every decade.

Like most foreign species introduced into Australia’s delicate ecosystem, camels have wreaked havoc. They feed on roughly 80 percent of Australia’s plant species, and have pushed some to the brink of extinction. In their search for water, they soil Aboriginal drinking holes, destroy everything from fences to air conditioners, and cause more than $12 million worth of damage each year. In response, the Australian government plans to cull 349,000 of them, at a cost of $17 million.

Dann thinks this is a waste of potentially valuable meat. He concedes that camel is still a novelty in Australia, but he sees a lucrative market in the Middle East, where it’s widely accepted. If he wins government approval to export, he aims to up the number of animals he slaughters each week from 20 to 300. “It’s a good meat, low in cholesterol,” he said. “I would hate to see it go to the worms.”

The American interest in Australia's feral camels is interesting. I wonder if there is a market in the US for camel meat.

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