Alarm over conditions on livestock carrier

THE livestock carrier, Al-Shuwaikh, aboard which 57 000 sheep were transported in allegedly inhumane conditions, according to the NSPCA. Vessel Finder

THE livestock carrier, Al-Shuwaikh, aboard which 57 000 sheep were transported in allegedly inhumane conditions, according to the NSPCA. Vessel Finder

Published Oct 25, 2019


Durban - WHY have livestock carriers, known universally as animal death ships, made the small South African port of East London their port of choice when calling in South Africa to load sheep or cattle for export?

Were they directed there by the port authority or some other government body, or is it that the exporters of live animals for slaughter overseas, in places like Mauritius and the Persian Gulf, themselves believe that by going to a small port it might allow them to sail under the radar of public opinion?

In either case, the policy has worked until now. Numerous shiploads of cattle have been exported through East London to Mauritius, with little fanfare. As a rule, East London news does not spread far and wide.

The National Council of SPCAs has, however, been on the case of the latest export of live animals from the country, a phenomenal 57 000 sheep exported

to the Middle East for slaughter in Kuwait.

Not that the NSPCA had any real success with its efforts of appealing to authorities to intervene in the conditions surrounding the loading of this huge mass of animals, an ordeal lasting four days.

On top of that, the animals suffered days in road trucks from the farms

and a journey of hundreds of kilometres to East London, where they were trapped in long queues of vehicles resembling the bottlenecks one experiences here in Durban, outside the container terminal.

Several legal challenges were made, which further delayed the process.

After sitting in port for some time, the loading of the 57 000 sheep for the Middle East went ahead. Once completed the ship, Al-Shuwaikh, was allowed to sail, ostensibly directly to Kuwait but, as it turned out, with two stops in the Sultanate of Oman to discharge some of the surviving sheep.

The NSPCA said it was estimated several sheep would die en route. Animals would die from stress, from overheating, from being trampled and generally from simply having to exist in such conditions including their own filth. Their bodies would go overboard.

On October 3, the third day of loading, the acting-director of Veterinary Public Health of the Department of Agriculture, Dr Mphane Molefe, made an inspection, accompanied by an NSPCA veterinarian and a senior inspector. According to the NSPCA, Molefe was described as having appeared horrified at the conditions on board the ship, including dangerously high ammonia levels on some of the decks, parasitic conditions including faeces in food and water troughs, as well as other serious concerns.

On board the Al-Shuwaikh, it was only halfway through the loading process, while the sheep would have to continue such stress, after which they would face being at sea in all weathers for several more weeks, the NSPCA said.

Despite Molefe’s apparent reaction, two provincial government veterinarians later advised the NSPCA that there was nothing wrong on board.

A spokesperson for the Kuwaiti company involved, Al Mawashi, also denied allegations saying that the transporting of the sheep was being handled according to accepted international standards.

On October 4, Al-Shuwaikh was permitted to sail for the Middle East.

After the ship sailed, it was learnt that the ship was making the two stops in Muscat and Fujairah, before heading up the Gulf to Kuwait. This, according to the NSPCA, added to the animals’ trauma but one suspects that this is all about business and animal rights don’t enter the equation.

Does that attitude also apply to the South African farmers who willingly sold their livestock, knowing it was for export? One has to suspect so.

The NSPCA says it intends laying charges under the Animals Protection Act No. 71 of 1962 against the South African government including the provincial government as well as animal cruelty charges, assault charges and multiple charges of obstruction against the personnel who handled the animals inhumanely, those who allegedly assaulted and hindered NSPCA inspectors from their duties, and personnel from the company Al Mawashi, which is handling the importing of the sheep via its registered company in South Africa.

The fact of the latter suggests other similar shipments are planned.

Terry Hutson keeps a beady eye on shipping activities, but particularly those related to Africa and South Africa. For shipping activities, news and schedules please contact him on 082 331 5775, email [email protected] or visit the website for ships in port and other maritime-related data.

The Mercury

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