Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)
NSPCA cites ‘gross animal cruelty’
THE NSPCA had observed “gross cruelty” towards the consignment of 50 000 sheep and 600 cattle loaded onto the Al Messilah livestock carrier this week before being shipped to the Middle East, it said yesterday.
The Al Messilah, owned by Kuwaiti livestock exporter Al Mawashi, departed from East London on Thursday morning on a journey over the equator that will stretch between 14 and 21 days.
The NSPCA said it documented numerous contraventions to the Animal Protection Act, including inhumane and cruel handling, unacceptable levels of noxious gases and noise and overloading.
“These contraventions included animals legs caught between trucks and ramps, dragging of the sheep by the fleece, legs and horns, punching and kicking, tail twisting, knee jabbing into the ribs of animals, and grabbing and tossing of animals.”
It said more than half of the sheep were not afforded adequate space and pens were overcrowded.
“At this time of the year, with expected high temperatures, this kind of stocking density is unacceptable, especially for the overweight animals.
“Six newborn lambs were discovered on board the vessel, with more likely to be born in the coming days.”
Most of the sheep, the organisation said, had not been sheared.
“These are all contraventions of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) international standards.”
The NSPCA recently took importers and exporters to court, seeking to prevent the live export, citing concerns that these animals would be subject to serious cruelty on the journey. Concerns related to the high temperatures the animals would be subject to in being transported in sweltering heat, the stress of being land animals at sea, a changed diet, the difficulties of disposing of their waste safely, the condition of sick animals, among others.
Animal Law Reform South Africa (ALRSA) and their representatives at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies have been closely following the matter.
Last week, the Grahamstown High Court ordered that a reduced number of sheep may be exported live to the Middle East and instructed the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to ensure compliance with the OIE guidelines.
“It seems almost impossible that the particular standards the court set could be observed in just one week,” said David Bilchitz, director at ALRSA and professor of law at the University of Johannesburg.
“For example, the standards require each individual animal to be inspected to assess their fitness to travel: How could this be done for over 50 000 animals in such a short space of time?”
The NSPCA said that although it pointed out the blatant contraventions, the exporters were still allowed to load the sheep. “We are still waiting for the department to release a comprehensive report,” said Nazareth Appalsamy, senior inspector of the farm animal protection unit.
It laid charges in terms of the Act. In a statement, Al Mawashi South Africa said the export of live sheep was “critical for food security, religious sacrifice, and consumer preference for freshly slaughtered meat in Middle Eastern countries”.
The court, it said, required a report from the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform that showed compliance with the humane and ethical treatment of animals before the export permit could be issued.
Accredited live export veterinary expert Dr Colin Scrivener would travel with the animals, while stock handlers would work alongside him to care for the livestock and monitor animal health during the voyage, it said.
This week, 6 000 cattle drowned on their way from New Zealand to China when a cargo ship capsized in rough seas during Tyhoon Maysak, leading New Zealand to suspend cattle exports.