Showing a flagrant disregard for its own Guidelines for the Exportation of Live Animals by Sea, published last year, the government and the Red Meat Industry Forum have supported and allowed the exportation of  49 000 head of sheep by sea. They were loaded aboard the 43-year old Al Mesillah. This old livestock carrier has become a regular yearly visitor to East London. She sailed on 29 July, bound for the Persian Gulf.

The shipment was put together by Kuwaiti livestock traders Al Mawashi, and their Kuwaiti sister shipowning company named Livestock Transport & Trading Co. Al Mawashi maintains an office in East London to facilitate these shipments.

Government Guidelines

One of the key tenets of the government’s guidelines is a ban on shipments of livestock taking place to the Middle East in the South African winter months. This means crossing the Equator at the hottest time of the year, and venturing into the Persian Gulf during the scorching northern summer. Gulf summer temperatures routinely top 40 deg C and seawater temperatures in the Gulf can peak at way more than 30 deg C. These conditions often prove fatally hot for animals cooped up in pens on livestock carriers. Such ships, while they are fitted with large forced-air fans to remove stale air, and odours of manure and urine, have no other atmospheric cooling for the cargo.

Feedlot Shortcomings

For some weeks prior to the ship’s arrival and actual loading, the animals were assembled at the Page Farming Trust feedlot near East London. Here a team of no fewer than 16 NSPCA inspectors found significant animal welfare concerns. These included a shortage of pelleted feed, obviously pregnant ewes, new-born lambs from those sheep who had given birth, as well as aborted young. Other compromised animals including lame sheep, sheep with foot rot, a pink eye outbreak throughout the pens, and emaciated and moribund sheep, said the NSPCA.

Court Judgment

The NSPCA attempted to halt the shipment by applying to the High Court in Makhanda for an urgent interdict. The Acting Judge did not hear the merits of the case, but only heard argument on urgency. The loading was therefore permitted to take place.

Main Image credit: Sam Wilson, Wikimedia

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