Call to stop the boats of horror: Activists urge Thoko Didiza to ban such transit

Al Kuwait is at the centre of a global call for livestock transport by sea to be banned. l SUPPLIED

Al Kuwait is at the centre of a global call for livestock transport by sea to be banned. l SUPPLIED

Published Feb 24, 2024


Cape Town – Animal rights and environmental activists are calling on the South African government to ban the live transportation of cattle by sea after a horrific shipment caused a stink in Cape Town this week.

They have penned letters to Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.

Coalition to Stop Live live Animal Export SA called on the minister to “pass regulations which would unequivocally prohibit the live export of all animals by sea”.

“Act swiftly to implement these much-needed regulations and protect vulnerable animals from unnecessary suffering,” the organisation wrote to Didiza.

This week, authorities said the cattle ship, transporting around 19 000 livestock from Brazil to the Middle East, had left the Port of Cape Town to continue its journey to Iraq.

The stench emanating from the vessel, which is owned by Kuwaiti-based Al Mawashi caused an uproar after it stopped off in Cape Town for required supplies such as cattle feed.

The livestock were found drenched in their own faeces and urine and officials of the NSPCA (the National Council of SPCA) were forced to euthanise eight cows while some were already found dead.

The NSPCA said the incident had heightened the global call for awareness.

The scene which confronted SPCA inspectors on board the Kuwaiti-based ship in Cape Town. l CAPE OF GOOD HOPE SPCA
The shocking state in which cattle were discovered on board a ship has sparked a global call for livestock transport by sea to be banned. l CAPE OF GOOD HOPE SPCA

When asked what had happened to the animal remains and who would be footing the veterinary bill, they said they had approached national government.

Grace de Lange, of the NSPCA, said bringing carcasses onto South African soil could also pose a risk of disease to to local herds and that the sea became their burial ground.

“In terms of the South African Marine Authority, the animal carcasses may only be discharged into the sea,” according to International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

When the ship was at sea as far as possible from land the carcasses will be disposed of. “(This is) if the carcass has been slit or cut, so that its thoracic and abdominal cavities are opened or passed through a grinder, mincer or similar equipment and the discharge is undertaken in accordance with section 2.12 of the 2017 guidelines.”

Carli Costa, of Coalition to Stop Live Animal Export SA. and their organisation had been hosting protests in and around Cape Town this week calling for the ban of livestock transportation by sea: “This company (Al Mawashi) has ships which have loaded sheep in East London on numerous occasions in the past to transport South African sheep to Kuwait.

“So it is not a new concept. However, I think that very few people are aware of this and that is our group’s goal through protest, to improve people’s knowledge around live export.

“The more people learn about the suffering, the more pressure the government will face to make change. “

Allan Perrins, of the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa, said trade could still continue but with raw meat rather than livestock.

“We’re not saying don’t have trade, just not live trade,” he said.

“Long distance trade should be meat and carcasses.

“The suffering involved in these long and arduous journeys is totally unacceptable.

“Cows are sentient beings. They have the capacity to have feelings.

“South African law does not recognise the sentience of animals.

“Our law defines animals as property.”

Cynthia Moyo, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, questioned why the ship was not impounded in order too save the cattle.

But Reggie Ngcobo, of the department of agriculture, said protocols had to be followed when dealing with a foreign ship: “As we have said, that ship is not a South African one but we have an obligation as a South African government to protect our territory in terms of diseases.

“That is why they were stopped from disembarking the ship. If this had been our own ship, we would have dealt with it differently,” Ngcobo said.

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