The drama surrounding the continued live export of sheep from the Port of East London continues to grow, with the NSPCA butting heads with Kuwait-based company Al Mawashi.
Earlier this month, a ship owned by Al Mawashi arrived in East London in order to transport over 70,000 sheep, but quick action from the NSPCA led to the high court in Makhanda issuing a stay of execution until the matter.
According to the NSPCA, the live export of sheep is a form of animal abuse and should be stopped completely.
“There is an array of cruelty concerns on these voyages, from physical to mental suffering,” said NSPCA PR manager Meg Wilson.
“These animals are confined in a completely unnatural environment where the lights are kept on 24 hours a day for the entire journey.
“This alone causes extreme stress and fatigue as these animals cannot differentiate between day and night.
“The vessel is not washed out during the voyage, therefore the sheep have to live in their own excrement for the entire journey.
“Heat stress is a serious factor, which is exacerbated at this time of year as we see temperatures soar into the 50°C mark and these animals are kept in a metal box, in essence.
“There are sufficient scientific articles that have proved this. There is also a mortality rate but we reiterate that mortality rate is not the only indication of suffering.”
Al Mawashi has continued to deny these claims.
“It is important to state, at the outset, that the welfare of the animals destined for export this month is our first priority. The animals will continue to be fed, taken care of and kept at the Castledale Berlin feedlot,” said Al Mawashi SA MD Ilyaas Ally.
This isn’t the first time the two organisations have come to blows.
In February, the NSPCA approached the Makhanda high court in an effort to ban all live exports of animals by ship, although they were unsuccessful.
The bid came after another Al Mawashi-owned vessel, the Al Shuwaikh, exported 60,000 sheep from the Port of East London last year.
In a statement released by the NSPCA at the time, the organisation cited a number of concerns, such as the poor condition of the animals.
“After finally gaining entry with the intervention of the SAPS, the inspectors had to euthanase a sheep due to it reportedly having a fractured leg.
“There were other animals that were limping and that had eye infections. This is an indication of the way animals will be left to suffer on board this vessel,” the statement said.
The NSPCA has also received push-back from local farmers, who say the partnership with Al Mawashi provides strong economic benefits to farmers across the country.
Northern Cape farmer Mandisi Nofumba said they needed more opportunities like this since it allowed them to earn a decent income and expand operations.
“The agreement [with Al Mawashi] will enable me to expand my business and has opened us up to new revenues. We are also busy with proposals to develop a training centre in Richmond, where our focus will be on training youth in the agricultural sector,” Nofumba said.
However, Wilson said it was still possible for farmers to profit off of their livestock while reducing the likelihood of animal cruelty taking place.
“Farmers should sell their animals for slaughter, and such animals should be humanely slaughtered at registered abattoirs in South Africa where they are protected by the Animals Protection Act.
“This will impact the economy positively, as well as job creation,” she said.
The NSPCA and Al Mawashi will meet in the Makhanda high court again on Thursday June 25 where the NSPCA will argue that live export of animals by sea should be banned.