Animal welfare group calls for independent vets to monitor sheep shipments

The Kuwaiti ship Al Mawashi loading sheep in East London Harbour before it departed for Kuwait on Thursday
LOADING LIVE SHEEP: The Kuwaiti ship Al Mawashi loading sheep in East London Harbour before it departed for Kuwait on Thursday
Image: Alan Eason

A coalition of 12 animal welfare organisations has challenged Agri Eastern Cape’s assurance that live animal shipments to the Middle East are not cruel and has called for independent vets to be placed on board.

Tozie Zokufa, founder of the Coalition for African Animal Welfare Organisations, said on Friday that Agri EC’s assertions — considering the voyage took 21 days and would include soaring temperatures especially as the ship crossed the equator — were of great concern.

“If exporters are so confident about the welfare of animals exported, we call on them to bring on board the ship independent vets to monitor the welfare of the sheep both during the voyage and at the destination point.

“Apart from the crowding, the long, excruciating journey and the well-known dangers of heat stress, exporters know full well that the sheep they are exporting will live in their excrement for up to 21 days, to the point where they are caked with their own and other animals’ faeces and urine. Most people would not see that as caring,” he said.

The coalition believed that SA would be better served slaughtering the sheep at home, he said.

“That is an imminently more sustainable option, far better geared to the needs of emerging farmers, job creation and our country’s economy.

“A small percentage of the current shipment of sheep are from emerging farmers. It’s the big agri-businesses that are benefiting. We don’t see noble intentions here. We see a profit-driven business that makes broad claims of caring but does nothing to back them up.”

The Kuwaiti shipping company had itself reported that 101 sheep had died during the September 2019 shipment, he said.

“How extensively must an animal suffer on board before it dies? Suffering cannot be a ‘norm’ or ‘business as usual’. The fact that it is, proves that the whole system of live animal transportation is not welfare-focused.

We challenge both Agri Eastern Cape and Al Mawashi to prove that the animals are treated humanely on board and at their destination, by allowing independent vets on board throughout the voyage”.

Two Al Mawashi shipments each carrying about 58,000 sheep sailed to Kuwait in September and March and a third on the Sl Messileh carrying 56,000 animals left on Thursday morning.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), whose effort to stop the live shipments failed after a ruling by the high court, said on Friday their inspectors had recorded numerous contraventions of the Animal Protection Act during the loading of the animals earlier this week.

“These contraventions included animals’ legs caught between trucks and ramps; dragging of the sheep by their fleece, legs and horns; punching and kicking them; tail-twisting and knee-jabbing into the ribs of animals; and grabbing and tossing of animals.

“Six newborn lambs were discovered on board the vessel, with more likely to be born in the coming days.”

The majority of the sheep had not been sheared, which would worsen heat and crowding stress, the organisation said.

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