The long-awaited court judgment debating the fate of tens of thousands of sheep to be exported alive by sea has finally been handed down, and the result is not what the South African National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) anticipated.
The Grahamstown High Court ruled on Wednesday in favour of international meat production and trade company, Al Mawashi and their counterpart, Livestock Transport Trading Company KSC, allowing the company to export sheep to the Middle East.
We are horrified by the decision made by the Grahamstown High Court to allow the ship to go the Middle East in the…
To add to the woes of those in favour of the sheep, the decision was made during one of the hottest months of the year in the Middle East.
It is not yet known when the estimated 56,000 sheep will set sail for Kuwait.
The NSPCA’s last court appearance saw the temporary prohibition of live sheep exports by sea, postponing the treacherous journey around 56,000 sheep were set to endure aboard the multi-decked Al Messilah vessel.
One of the primary concerns for live sheep exports is heat stress, especially in the northern hemisphere’s summer months. The journey can last up to three weeks.
Al Mawashi’s Al Messilah vessel has been in East London for months.
From the Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust condemning the conditions aboard Al Mawashi’s vessels, to the Livestock Welfare Coordinating Committee expressing concern over the long journey for live exports, the odds appeared to be in favour of the sheep.
South African Veterinary Association (Sava) president Dr Leon de Bruyn told The Citizen that even with the best animal welfare legislation in place, it all comes down to government policy influencing the implementation of good welfare standards.
“There is always a delicate balance between profit and welfare, but they are not mutually exclusive. Sacrificing welfare for short-term profits seldom pays off in the long term. Sava supports profitable, ethical and sustainable livestock farming,” de Bruyn said.
Although Sava has accepted the court judgment, it strongly advised that independent, knowledgeable observers from South Africa be present onboard the voyage, “to monitor unrestrictedly and to report fully and publicly on all aspects of the welfare of the 56,000 sheep throughout the entire process.”
South Africa’s animal protection legislation is progressive, de Bruyn continued, but said it is becoming increasingly globally accepted to prioritise the welfare of animals, even those consumed by people.
“Legislation to inform duties of animal care is indeed limited in South Africa.”
There is much room for improvement, and de Bruyn said it would support the calls for improved legislation to protect animal welfare in South Africa, “to safeguard the interests of all sentient beings.”
Reasons for the High Court’s decisions will be provided on 15 September.