Cape Town Livestock highlights the horrific conditions on cattle ships

  • Written by Wedaile Chibiloshi
  • BBC News

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Millions of farm animals make long journeys across oceans every year

Cape Town residents woke up to a strong sewage-like smell sweeping through their neighborhoods on Monday morning.

Source? A ship from Brazil carrying 19,000 head of cattle had docked in the coastal city in South Africa the night before, in order to reload them with animal feed.

After carrying out an assessment on board the Kuwait, staff from a leading animal welfare organisation, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), said the livestock had been on board for two-and-a-half weeks and were living in a “building”. – Stool and ammonia arrive [a gas released from urine]”.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in its statement that the conditions were “horrific” and the stench was “unimaginable.”

Campaign groups say the ship has now departed for Iraq, but there will still be panic in the air.

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The Kuwaiti ship is heading to Iraq, carrying 19,000 heads of livestock

Cattle are just a small part of the millions of farm animals that endure long journeys in order to be slaughtered and eaten in another country.

Animal rights organizations have long complained that conditions on board these ships can be dangerous.

They say that in some cases, creatures are being trampled to death due to overcrowding, while dehydration, disease and hunger are also risks.

Livestock export advocates say the practice provides food security for importing countries and also financially benefits farming communities in exporting countries.

Peter Stephenson of global animal welfare group Compassion in Global Farming told the BBC that while such disasters are horrific, “the really bad thing is just the daily suffering” of exported livestock.

The 19,000 cattle docked in South Africa are part of a much larger herd of Brazilian exports – in 2022, the South American country sent 150,000 live cattle abroad, according to CIWF estimates.

Last year, a Brazilian judge banned the export of live livestock from the country, citing poor welfare practices, but the ban has yet to be imposed.

Australia and the European Union are also major exporters of livestock, with the latter selling about 4.5 million live farm animals to foreign countries, according to the South African branch of animal welfare charity Four Paws.

In Africa, Somalia and Sudan export the largest amount. Sudanese authorities said the country exported more than 2.7 million heads of livestock in 2023, despite the raging civil war. According to local media.

But why do countries want to import live animals instead of chilled or frozen meat?

“There is a traditional belief in many countries… that fresh meat is somehow tastier and healthier than packaged, refrigerated or frozen meat,” Stevenson said.

Some of these countries may struggle to raise animals from birth because they suffer from arid conditions that have worsened with global warming.

Australian LiveCorp, an organization serving Australia's livestock exporters, and AgForce, which represents rural producers in Queensland, say shipping animals contributes to food security in water-stressed regions such as the Middle East.

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Activists have long protested against livestock exports around the world

They also say exporting livestock benefits the Australian economy and farming communities, which can sell their animals for a higher price overseas than they can domestically.

However, Australia has committed to “phasing out” live sheep exports in 2023. But it has not set a deadline. Neighbor New Zealand imposed the ban in the same year.

In Europe, Luxembourg has banned the trade, and the UK is on track to do the same – with a bill passed through parliament's lower house, the House of Commons, last month. On Wednesday, it will be considered by the upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Four Paws points out that in addition to hosting a ship full of livestock in Cape Town harbour, South Africa exports farm animals itself.

Fiona Miles, the charity's South Africa director, said: “There are insufficient regulations and animals are raised in the country simply because they are transported to be killed, meaning South Africa bears the harmful effects associated with animal agriculture while the importing country does not.” , He said.

Cattle docking in Cape Town have not only caused a stench, but have also reminded the world of the dangers animals face on the long journeys to reach our plates.

“Animals are sentient beings and feel pain and stress just as we do,” Ms Miles said.

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