NSPCA lays criminal complaint against ‘sheep ship’ stakeholders
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has laid a criminal complaint against stakeholders involved in the controversial export of 60,000 live sheep from East London to Kuwait last month.
The complaint, announced by the NSPCA in a statement on Thursday afternoon, is made against the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, the Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform, Al Mawashi, the owners of the Al Shuwaikh vessel, the captain of the Al Shuwaikh, the Page Farming Trust and individuals from the Page Farming Trust.
The NSPCA believes these stakeholders contravened the Animal Protection Act.
“Our pleas to treat the animals humanely fell on deaf ears,” said Grace de Lange, manager of the NSPCA’s farm animal protection unit.
“Seeing the suffering of these sheep even before their departure, and watching the Al-Shuwaikh depart was heartbreaking, but it has also affirmed the NSPCA’s determination to advocate for justice on their behalf.”
De Lange said the NSPCA had received criticism that it had taken too long to lay the complaint.
“Preparing separate dockets for the feedlot, the harbour and the vessel carrying the sheep has involved the collation of valuable evidence from 15 staff members. Carefully completed dockets with the relevant evidence have been handed over to the South African Police Services who will now only be required to obtain statements from the accused”.
The intention was not only to ensure that the Al-Shuwaikh did not return to South African shores, but also to challenge the issue of exporting live animals by sea.
Kuwaiti ‘ban’ raises questions about Eastern Cape sheep
Within the past few days, Kuwait’s Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) has taken a decision to ban the slaughter of female animals under a certain age, including sheep.
The information, learnt by DispatchLIVE on Wednesday, has raised questions about the implications for the 60,000 sheep currently being loaded onto the the Kuwait-flagged “sheep ship” Al Shuwaikh in East London.
That process began late on Tuesday afternoon.
NSPCA inspectors monitoring the loading process in the harbour say they have already seen several violations of the Animal Protection Act, including high ammonia levels and sheep panting in the heat on board the vessel.
According to reports on Arab Times Online and Al-Rai daily, PAAAFR stated: “Until further notice the slaughter of red-meat producing female animals, including sheep, cows and camels, is forbidden in order to increase the production of red meat.”
The measure applies to all female animals from one year to four years old, “unless it is proved these animals are unfit for breeding for any reason or are diseased or are suffering from fractures”.
PAAAFR officials warned of penalties if these instructions were ignored and said all slaughterhouses in Kuwait had been informed of the decision.
The Dispatch approached the department of rural development & agrarian reform to ask whether it was aware of the reported decision taken by PAAAFR.
Department spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa said the department had done “everything above board” and had worked within the requirements provided by Kuwait.
“We have issued the export permit on the basis of the requirements provided and on the basis of the information provided to us, ” Lungisa said.
The Kuwaiti government would have told SA that it would not allow certain animals, but the department acted on the information provided, he reiterated.
He said the farmers in the province should now be celebrating because of the economic benefits the deal would bring.
But according to NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson, part of the organisation’s team monitoring the loading in the harbour, there is already grave cause for concern about the sheep.
Confirming that there were “many” ewes on board under the age of four that would be protected under the ban, she said the Al Shuwaikh had not even left port before the sheep began suffering.
“There are exceptionally high ammonia levels for one. We have equipment that measures these levels and the reading is at 37. To give you an idea, the level where it is safe for humans is 25,” she said.
“The sheep are also very hot, and are panting.
“In the middle of their pens there is a ventilator, and all the sheep are huddling around the ventilator to try to get cool.”
She said it was only when they pointed this out that the “fans were turned on higher”.
The department announced on Monday that the Al Shuwaik was given a clean bill of health, and on Tuesday sheep were transported by the truckload from the Berlin feedlot to East London harbour.
Smaragda Louw, of animal rights group Ban Animal Trading, said the reported ban on slaughter of younger ewes, among other animals, emphasised the uncertainty of what would happen to the sheep when they reached the Middle East.
“Are some sheep now not going to be slaughtered under this ban? Or are they going to be re-exported from Kuwait,” she said.
According to a statement from the ship’s owners, Al Mawashi, although the vessel has capacity for 80,000 sheep “as per international stocking density standards”, the company would only load 60,000 sheep during the voyage to the Middle East.
Al Mawashi has opened a new slaughterhouse in Kuwait City which is able to slaughter 900 sheep an hour, or 18,000 a day.