The shipping of 70 000 live sheep from a feedlot in the Eastern Cape to the Middle East will now be heard on 6 August at the Makhanda (Grahamstown) High Court. The case, brought against shipping company Al Mawashi by the NSPCA, was originally due to be heard in July after a court issued an interdict preventing the animals from being shipped in June.

In the meantime, members of the agricultural community have come out in support of the shipping. The Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO), Agri SA and Agri Northern Cape and Eastern Cape released a joint statement on 21 July in which they supported the trade of livestock by ship “if it is done ethically without animal abuse”.

According to the statement, government officials tasked with ensuring compliance have declared that two previous shipments of livestock undertaken by Al Mawashi were adequate under World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards.

Two vets, who visited the ship and feedlot on behalf of the Red Meat Industry Forum declared both to be compliant.

Should the shipping go ahead, the cargo on board the Al Messilah’s cargo will arrive in the Arabian Gulf in the height of the northern summer, where daily temperatures routinely reach and exceed 40 degrees Celsius, leading to temperatures inside the ship routinely exceeding 50 degrees Celsius, with the lower deck temperatures the worst, as the ship’s hull is, in addition, heated by the warm waters of the Gulf.

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