“The sheep will be fine; we can assure you” - Government
Cattle farming in South Africa is estimated to be worth around R142 billion, according to data from Trade Map.
“For far too long the people of the Eastern Cape have seen no substantial economic benefits to their hard work of livestock farming. The deal between the Middle East and Ifula Livestock will boost the farming economy of this province, and that, we are happy about,” said Ayongezwa Lungisa, spokesperson for the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.
The department’s veterinary services earlier this week certified the Al Shuwaikh vessel as suitable to load 64 000 sheep and transport them over three weeks to Kuwait.
On Wednesday, day two of loading, 60% of the cargo was on board. The entrance to the Port of East London on Hely Hutchinson Road had an overwhelming stench of sheep urine and faeces, as hundreds of sheep awaited their turn to be loaded on the vessel.
Stored in trucks with three levels per carriage, each truck carries 500 sheep that are compressed to fit. Some were gasping for air and at least two were bleeding. A loader assured the Eastern Cape Rising Sun that those that are injured will not be loaded.
According to animal rights activists, over 100 000 litres of urine and faeces accumulate on a three-week voyage. Investigations conducted by animal rights organisation NSPCA and the Australian government claim that the Middle East’s high temperatures result in sheep being unable to regulate their own body temperatures causing heatstroke.
Sheep can be “cooked alive” while in oven-like temperatures. Waste build-up makes it dangerous for the sheep to lie down, as they risk being buried alive, and ammonia from their excrement often leads to respiratory infections, and burning eyes and throats.
According to the NSPCA, mixed with disease, overcrowding, pneumonia, motion sickness, physical trauma and injuries, and stress, creates the perfect environment for excruciating suffering, and many animals will die in transit. “We are devastated. We do not believe that the ship meets the basic standards and we are certain the animals are going to suffer. The South African government is being irresponsible,” said Meg Wilson, spokesperson for the NSPCA.
Al Shuwaikh Pty, the company that owns the vessel for livestock transportation claimed that they have undertaken over 150 successful voyages over the past 20 years and have transported over 10 million sheep to the Middle East. “Our company has a proven track record as one of the best global livestock export facilitators – having moved livestock by sea for decades without being charged for any animal welfare incidents,” said Prince Mabandla, spokesperson for the company.
However, there are reports circulating alleging that in November 2017 during a voyage on the Al Shuwaikh, an average of 37 animals died each day onboard the ship. In June 2018, an average of 20 animals died per day on a 30-day voyage, and in September 2018, 659 deaths were recorded on a 24-day voyage.
“No proof has been provided for these claims. As far as we are concerned, this is pure propaganda by the NSPCA. We have included them in all inspections and they were given access to everything they need to satisfy themselves. We also care about the animals as a department and the people in Kuwait also want to receive their cargo in good condition. Therefore, there is no reason for us to put the lives of these animals in danger,” argued Lungisa.
On whether or not the department will be sending a representative on the voyage to ensure that agreed-upon terms are abided by, Lungisa assured that no such will happen. “We will not be involving ourselves to that extent, if our vets are happy with the vessel and its conditions, we have no reason to go on the voyage,” he concluded.