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Controversy in South Africa over shipment to Kuwaiti abattoir

Animal rights groups claim conditions dire on Kuwaiti livestock ship

FREMANTLE, Australia: Kuwaiti-flagged livestock carrier Al Shuwaikh is berthed at North Quay in Fremantle Harbour in Western Australia in this Oct 2, 2016 file photo. – Photo used for illustrative purposes

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa: Animal rights activists in South Africa are trying to stop over 60,000 goats, sheep and cows being shipped to a Kuwaiti abattoir, saying many of them would die en route. An inspection of the Al Shuwaikh vessel revealed miserable and crammed conditions, the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) said. “Disease, overcrowding, pneumonia, motion sickness, physical trauma and injuries, and stress creates the perfect environment for excruciating suffering and many animals will die in transit,” it warned.

The Kuwaiti-flagged vessel is docked in the southeastern port of East London. The animals will be packed like sardines and “not be able to lie down or rest,” NSPCA spokeswoman Meg Wilson told AFP. An online petition against the shipment has gathered 77,000 signatures so far. The NSPCA also conducted two inspections at a farm where the sheep are being raised which it said revealed abysmal conditions.

“The sheep were fighting for food, there was no shelter, including in the hospital pens, some animals looked underfed with ocular and nasal discharge. Some were blind, limping and bruised all over their bodies,” Wilson said. Authorities in the Eastern Cape province, where East London is located, said they were not aware that a ship was due to leave for Kuwait shortly carrying live animals. However, they added that all vessels had to meet “strict requirements” for animal welfare, agrarian reform ministry spokesman Ayongezwa Lungisa said.

According to the NSPCA, the ship was supposed to have left in mid-September but could not confirm if it had departed. This is the first time the Al Shuwaikh is attempting to export live animals from South Africa. Previously for a decade, it had imported animals from Australia. Last week, Australia lifted a temporary ban on controversial live sheep exports, with the first ship departing for Kuwait from Fremantle in Western Australia state last Tuesday with about 60,000 animals on board.

Australian live export trade has been under scrutiny since horrific footage of dead and dying heat-stressed sheep on vessels bound for the Middle East was released in April 2018, prompting a public outcry and forcing sweeping reforms to the industry. Though the government resisted calls to outlaw the practice entirely, a review led to a temporary embargo on live exports during the northern-hemisphere summer from June to September this year. – AFP

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