The Al Shuwaikh Departs South Africa

Credit: NSPCA
Credit: NSPCA

Published Oct 8, 2019 5:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The livestock carrier Al Shuwaikh has departed South Africa with the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) threatening the government with legal action over animal welfare conditions on board.

The vessel is taking around 57,000 sheep to the Middle East. NSPCA inspectors monitored the loading of the livestock at the feedlot and on to the ship - a process that took over three days.

The Director of Veterinary Public Health of the Department of Agriculture accompanied the NSPCA’s veterinarian and a Senior Inspector on an inspection of the vessel. Meg Wilson of the NSPCA says they measured dangerously high ammonia levels on some of the decks and saw feces in food and water troughs - before the loading process had been completed. “Curiously, later that day, two veterinarians from the provincial government department undertook an inspection and advised our inspectors that nothing was wrong.”

Wilson says that at the insistence of Al Mawashi, the Kuwaiti importer of the sheep, the loading process continued throughout the last night (October 3, 2019). The NSPCA appealed to the provincial government representatives to stop the loading, as animals were being manhandled as a result of exhausted handlers and the dark conditions. However, the government refused.

The NSPCA called upon Dr. Shawn Morris, an experienced veterinarian and feedlot expert in South Africa, to inspect the vessel: “Having had an opportunity to attend the unloading on the Al Shuwaikh on Thursday evening and having been granted access to the vessel itself, it was evident that the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s (DALRRD) lack of concern and more importantly, their absence at the loading point as well as on the vessel (save for short periods of time), is of serious concern,” said Morris, “I would describe the role of DALRRD as nothing more than window dressing.”

The NSPCA asked Morris to describe this shipment, and others like it. His response was “disaster.”

The only authority in attendance during the entire loading operation at both the feedlot and on the harbor was the NSPCA, with the assistance of Eastern Cape SPCAs, whose personnel, including their veterinarian, worked around the clock to ensure that no sick, injured or lame animals were loaded. This is clearly a role that should have been fulfilled by DALRRD veterinarians, says Wilson. The NSPCA was also concerned that sheep were being assessed after blood test results showed positive for the deadly Bluetongue infection, but this did not delay the loading.

Wilson claims the sheep may be slaughtered inhumanely in Kuwait. “We were standing on the harbor 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,” she said.

The NSPCA will be initiating legal action in terms of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 against the South African Government, including the Provincial Government, in relation to animal cruelty. The organization also alleges its personnel were assaulted and hindered from fulfilling their duties, and it will take legal action over this as well.

The NSPCA provided a report to the government on September 23, 2019, outlining the welfare concerns and foreseeable contraventions of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 if sheep were loaded on to the Al Shuwaikh.

Local TV show Carte Blanche also investigated the nation's emerging live export trade with Kuwait and the potential for what the presenter calls the “nightmare journey” for the sheep on the Al Shuwaikh.