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NSPCA to lay charges over 'inhumane' export of sheep to Middle East

The bays where the sheep are being kept during their journey to Kuwait.
The bays where the sheep are being kept during their journey to Kuwait.
Image: Alan Eason

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) is to take legal action over the controversial export by ship of an estimated 57,000 sheep destined for the Middle East from the East London harbour this week.

The sheep, being shipped to Kuwait by Middle East import company Al Mawashi on board the Al-Shuwaikh, are destined for what the NSPCA calls “inhumane” slaughter.

The NSPCA said it a statement on Saturday it would be laying charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act against the South African government, including the Eastern Cape provincial government.

It said it would also lay animal cruelty charges, assault charges and multiple charges of obstruction “against the personnel that handled the animals inhumanely, those that assaulted and hindered NSPCA inspectors from fulfilling their duties, and personnel of Al Mawashi who have a registered company in SA”.

“Furthermore, the NSPCA will take the necessary legal action to ensure that there is an end to the unacceptable and unnecessary cruelty involved in the live export trade,” said NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson.

“Seeing the suffering of these sheep even before their departure, and watching the Al-Shuwaikh depart has been heartbreaking, but it has also affirmed our determination. We may have lost this battle — but we have not lost the war. We will do everything in our power to ensure that no animal is ever loaded on board these death ships again,” said Wilson.

She said that NSPCA inspectors had monitored the loading at the feedlot and the harbour throughout the entire four-day process.

“We were standing on the harbour after a final inspection of the vessel was undertaken, the atmosphere and sheer devastation was suffocating. We all knew what it meant for the sheep on board. However, the evidence collected over the last four days will protect millions of animals from ever being loaded onto these death ships in the future.”

Wilson said that Dr Mphane Molefe, director of veterinary public health of the department of agriculture, had accompanied the NSPCA’s veterinarian and a senior inspector on an inspection of the vessel on October 3 and appeared to be horrified at the conditions on board the ship, including “dangerously high ammonia levels on some of the decks, parasitic conditions including faeces in food and water troughs, among other serious concerns”.

She said the sheep still had to endure these “worsening” conditions for their entire journey.

“Curiously, later that day, two veterinarians from the provincial government department undertook an inspection and advised our inspectors that nothing was wrong.” 

Wilson said that at the insistence of Al Mawashi, the loading process had continued throughout the night of October 3. “The NSPCA appealed to the provincial government representatives to put a stop to the loading as animals were being manhandled as a result of exhausted handlers and the dark conditions but the intransigent government officials stood by and did nothing,” she charged.

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