Of the 186 310 sheep exported by sea between 2019 and 2021, only 27 304 were from not many more than 50 emerging farmers, the rest having been procured from established commercial farmers. This is according to court documents obtained by the NSPCA from the Eastern Cape Legislature and High Court papers during their recent challenges against the shipping of livestock.

This contradicts one of the major reasons that the government, and organised agriculture, have used to allow and encourage live sheep exports from East London to the Middle East.

The leading Kuwaiti livestock trader, Al Mawashi has claimed that the trade is valid because it provides an outlet for emerging farmers to sell their flocks.

Furthermore, says the NSPCA, the most vulnerable in South Africa rely for their protein on the so-called the “fifth quarter”. These organs are not what is put into the formal commercial butchery chain, and constitute “offal” and sheep heads.

Exporting live animals that would otherwise have been slaughtered locally deprives vulnerable citizens of access to such production, says the NSPCA.

And in a further development the NSPCA has approached the Constitutional Court to rule on the ongoing legal battle between the NSPCA and Al Mawashi regarding the continued exportation by sea of sheep.

Developments in New Zealand

Meanwhile, animal rights activists worldwide, including the NSPCA, have congratulated the New Zealand government for placing a blanket ban on live animal exportation by sea from that country.

This is in effect an extension of its ban in 2008 on the seaborne export of livestock for the sole purpose of slaughter. It follows the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1, a cattle carrier, and the loss of 5 867 head of New Zealand cattle and 42 of the ship’s crew in the East China Sea last year.

Commenting on the New Zealand decision the NSPCA points out that despite South Africa’s animal protection legislation the government continues to allow the practice of livestock transportation by sea and, in fact, has only recently published draft guidelines for the exportation of livestock for comment by the public.

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