Interdicted live sheep exporters claim losses of R1m a day
The companies have forked out over R60m since the interim interdict prohibiting them from exporting was granted in June
Kuwaiti-based animal exporter Al Mawashi and its parent company, Livestock Transport and Trading Company (LTTC), are haemorrhaging R1m every day that the interdict prohibiting them from exporting 72,000 sheep from East London to the Middle East remains in place.
The companies’ counsel, advocate Johan de Waal, SC, on Friday told the Grahamstown high court that their ship, the Al Messilah, was costing R500,000 a day to sit idle in the East London port and the 72,000 sheep living at the Castledale Feedlot outside King William ’ s Town were eating their way through a further R500,000 worth of food a day.
Since the interim interdict was granted in June, the companies had forked out over R60m.
De Waal claimed that Al Mawashi’s investment in the Eastern Cape was the second biggest in the province, coming in just behind the automotive industry, and the NSPCA’s litigation had put this investment in jeopardy.
The NSPCA is arguing for the court to keep in place the interim interdict pending the outcome of a much bigger court matter in which it will seek to stop the export of sheep by ship to the Middle East altogether.
The NSPCA argues that the practice of exporting sheep by ship across the equator involves terrible cruelty at every stage of the process, starting in the feedlot, the loading on the ship and the journey during which they endure hunger, thirst, excessive ammonia and excrement, constant noise, unremitting bright fluorescent lights, and terrible heat which literally cause some sheep to cook from the inside out.
The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) on Friday laid the blame for the entire debacle at the door of the national agriculture & rural development department.
The RMIF initially supported the NSPCA in its interdict against Al Mawashi.
But on Friday its counsel, advocate Hilton Epstein, SC, said it would strenuously oppose the second part of the NSPCA’s application in which it sought to stop altogether the export of sheep by ship across the equator.
He said the red meat industry worked hard to keep the respect of the public and this included a strict code of conduct which precluded cruelty to animals.
It had initially supported the NSPCA because there were allegations of serious cruelty against Al Mawashi.
The RMIF had subsequently, with some reluctance from Al Mawashi, been allowed to inspect the Al Messilah and the Castledale Feedlot and their inspectors had ruled that both “passed muster”.
But, Epstein says, none of the problems would have arisen if the department had not been derelict in carrying out its duty of regulating and supervising animal export.
It had ignored its national and international obligations and had breached its duty to the law and the courts, said Epstein. It had not even had the decency to file an affidavit in the complicated matter to which it was central.
He asked judge Nceba Dukada to censor the department for its multiple failures.
Epstein said the RMIF could not condone lifting the interdict if this would lead to cruelty to the sheep.
He instead proposed a novel middle ground in which Dukada would lift the interdict but impose strict conditions, including that the department fulfil its duty of monitoring Al Mawahsi’s compliance with international standards and SA’s Animal Protection Act in every aspect of its conduct during export. He proposed a structural interdict requiring the department to report to the court on the steps it had taken to ensure compliance by Al Mawashi.
Epstein also insisted that the ship should only be allowed to load 56,000 sheep and not the full shipment of 72,000.
Epstein said the court should express its displeasure with the department by ordering it to pay all the legal costs involved in the matter.
The NSPCA’s counsel, Kevin Hopkins, said though he agreed that the government had failed in its duty, the case involved a private company and its unlawful cruelty to animals which the court was obliged to prevent by extending the interim interdict.
He described the department as a “broken institution” that had never done what was required and said there was no point in placing it in the position of supervisor. It had no will, capacity or ability to do the job.
Dukada reserved judgment.
The Al Messilah, was costing R500,000 a day to sit idle in the East London port and the 72,000 sheep living at the Castledale Feedlot outside King William’s Town were eating their way through a further R500,000 worth of food a day