Proposed USDA rule miscategorizes camels

Valeri Crenshaw and Doug Baum in Washington, DC.
Valeri Crenshaw and Doug Baum in Washington, DC.

This essay by Valeri Crenshaw was originally published in the Salem, OR Capital Press.

My Granny used to have this kitschy plaque hanging on her wall that said, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts.”

We all loved Granny’s dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor. It is probably one of the things I miss most about her. But these days, that saying has a haunting feeling that may be more about reality than folksy humor.

The USDA has proposed a policy, Wild and Exotic Animal Handling, Training of Personnel Involved with Public Handling of Wild and Exotic Animals, and Environmental Enrichment for Species, which categorizes animals in one of three categories, each category attached to varying levels of regulation and bureaucratic nonsense.

Many of the animals are placed exactly as they should be based on science, history of domestication and danger to humans. But the category designated for camels seems based very little on fact, science, history of domestication or usefulness to humans.

As a part of larger proposed rule changes the USDA is attempting to classify camels as Category 2 animals among the likes of capuchin monkeys, wildebeests, giraffes and dolphins — all wild animals lacking the same 5,000 years of human-animal interdependence (domestication) camels have.

This misinformed decision will greatly affect what we as camel owners can do with our camels, meaning it could hamper our efforts to use them in educational programs, at Christmas nativities or other holiday celebrations, for recreational purposes and for production efforts such as in camel milk dairies.

The North American Camel Ranch Owners Association proposes simply that camels be placed in Category 3 among other farm animals, like llamas and horses.

The main issues we have asked the USDA to consider, review and evaluate:

  • Camels are not wild animals. They have been domesticated for 5,000 years and used like any other livestock.
  • Camels belong in category 3 with horses and llamas, neither of which are native to North America.

These are simple requests, all backed by stacks and years of research.

The public, including camel owners, international scientists and renowned experts, have been leaving comments during the public comment period created by the USDA, and these comments are rich with scientifically proven facts, genetic research and history, but I cannot help but worry this impactful decision is decided based solely without the support of facts.

Maybe the USDA’s mind is made up and they really don’t want us to confuse them with facts supporting camels as livestock or farm animals, but our hope is they are like my Granny and they want to make educated and informed decisions.

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