The Citizen (Gauteng)

Animal exports ‘posing risk’


- Bernade e Wicks – bernadette­

Lobbyists reject any attempts to regulate trade they say put profits over principles.

Lobbyists have likened the live animal export trade with that of illicit drugs and human organs, in another impassione­d plea to government to outlaw what they describe as “a barbaric and cruel industry that creates needless suffering and death”.

The department of agricultur­e, land reform and rural developmen­t last month put out a call for public comment on a new set of draft guidelines for the transporta­tion of live animals by sea.

And Animal Law Reform South Africa (ALRSA) – a nonprofit organisati­on which works to, among others, “strengthen and develop legislatio­n and policy relating to animal and human protection in South Africa and Africa” – together with Wits University’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) – heeded that call.

They filed a joint submission first and foremost rejecting any attempts to regulate a trade they said put profits over principles.

“The regulation of the trade is justified on grounds of profitabil­ity – yet, a similar argument could be made for trading in harmful drugs or human organs. Given the unethical nature of these practices and the serious harms they cause to human beings, that would clearly be unacceptab­le.

“Live export causes horrific cruelty to animals and, in a similar vein, no amount of profit can justify such a practice,” they wrote.

The country’s live animal export trade came under the spotlight last year during a high court clash between the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) and Kuwaiti-based animal exporter Al Mawashi over the export of tens of thousands of live sheep from Gqeberha in Eastern Cape to the Middle East aboard the Al Messilah.

The NSPCA ultimately wound up losing its bid to stop the Al Messilah from setting sail with the animals on board but is still forging ahead with a bid to bring an end to the practice of live animal exports to the Middle East altogether.

In the meantime, though, director of veterinary public health Dr Mphane Molefe last month published the draft guidelines. This, he said at the time, with a view to providing “evidence-based animal welfare standards for transporti­ng live animals by sea from South Africa” as well as ensuring “appropriat­e animal welfare standards are maintained during all associated processes”.

In their submission, though, ALRSA and Cals painted a horrific picture of what they said vets working on ships transporti­ng live animal exports had witnessed – going so far as to say sometimes the animals were effectivel­y “cooked alive” as a result of the “inevitable heat buildup where the animals are kept, causing stress and physical discomfort”.

They also highlighte­d how other animals wound up starving to death or dying from dehydratio­n because they couldn’t access food and water while at sea.

Their position was that live animal exports were “fundamenta­lly inconsiste­nt with animal welfare” and, as a result, unconstitu­tional.

Attempting to regulate the practice, they said, could at best only “mitigate” what they described as “the terrible harm” it caused.

“Simply creating requiremen­ts for pen size or protocols for animal handlers will not address the overall moral and legal issues at stake in this industry: the well-being and life of the animals and the people accompanyi­ng them,” they argued.

The deadline to file submission­s is now over. The department had at the time of publishing not yet responded to a request for comment on the other submission­s received.

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