Defend Truth


Inside the stinking ship at Cape Town harbour carrying 19,000 cattle to the Middle East

Inside the stinking ship at Cape Town harbour carrying 19,000 cattle to the Middle East
The protest against live animal export and the cattle ship in Cape Town Harbour on 19 February 2024. Animal rights groups were made aware of the cattle ship after an overpowering stench, described as a combination of sewage, rotten fish, cow dung and goat urine, swept across the CBD and nearby suburbs. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Photos from inside the Al Kuwait, which is docked in Cape Town with 19,000 cattle aboard, show distressed animals. Some had been lying in their urine and faeces for the past eight days.

WARNING: Photographs below may distress readers.

‘If the smell in Cape Town CBD was so strong today, can one imagine what the animals have to smell inside the ship?”

This was a question posed by animal rights activist Carli Costa, who joined other protesters at the Taliep Petersen Bridge on Nelson Mandela Boulevard in Cape Town on Monday.

stinking ship cape town cattle

A protest on the Taliep Petersen Bridge on Nelson Mandela Boulevard in Cape Town on Monday against live animal export and the cattle ship in Cape Town Harbour on 19 February 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

stinking ship cape town cattle

The Al Kuwait docked in Cape Town harbour on Monday. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

They were picketing against live animal exports following the docking of the livestock carrier ship Al Kuwait, which caused a foul smell in parts of Cape Town, including Green Point, the Waterfront, Woodstock and Observatory.

The ship, which is transporting 19,000 cattle to Iraq, had been at sea for eight days and was travelling from Brazil when it made an emergency stop at Cape Town harbour. An employee at the harbour said the ship docked for fuel, water, food and medication for the crew and the animals.

stinking ship cape town cattle

A cow is inspected by the SPCA in the Al Kuwait carrier, docked at Cape Town harbour on Monday, 19 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in the Al Kuwait carrier. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

A cow in the Al Kuwait carrier. (Photo: Supplied)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Livestock carrier docked in Cape Town causes big stink and animal welfare beef

Distressed and dead

Pictures leaked to Daily Maverick show distressed cattle, some of which had been lying in their urine and faeces for the past eight days. According to Transnet, the Al Kuwait was expected to leave Cape Town on Tuesday, but the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) said it would leave on Wednesday.

It will be at sea for another 24 days before it reaches the Port of Basra in Iraq and there is little to no space on the ship in which the animals can move freely.

Grace de Lange from the NSPCA inspected the ship with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA team, including NSPCA veterinary consultant Dr Bryce Marock.

“There is a lot of build-up of faeces and when that happens you get ammonia,” she told Daily Maverick on Monday evening.

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in the Al Kuwait carrier. High levels of ammonia can adversely affect the respiratory systems and eyes of cattle. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in distressing conditions in the Al Kuwait carrier docked at Cape Town harbour. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in the Al Kuwait carrier have been kept in filthy conditions. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in the Al Kuwait carrier. (Photo: Supplied)

stinking ship cape town cattle

Cattle in the Al Kuwait carrier. (Photo: Supplied)

High levels of ammonia can adversely affect the respiratory systems and eyes of cattle.

“According to the captain we spoke to, they clean the vessel when they are in the waters,” De Lange said.

She said that did not make sense as the ship could be stuck in port for a few days if the delivery of food for the animals was slow.

“Animals are going to defecate every day. We had to put a few animals down on the recommendation of the vet because of the condition they were in and we also found some dead animals.”

De Lange said the ship’s crew did not have adequate medication to give to the animals, which have to endure weeks of travelling.

“Some of the medications they are giving are not 100% correct. For example, with the eye problems some of the cattle are having, they do not have any medicine.”

De Lange said the NSPCA had been in court multiple times in cases against the company that owns the Al Kuwait. This article will be updated after the company has been given a chance to comment.

“We have been in and out of the high court on numerous occasions since 2019. We do not mind if you farm animals, but it’s how you do it,” De Lange said.

In 2022, the NSPCA succeeded in stopping the proposed shipment of between 55,000 and 85,000 live sheep to Kuwait, claiming that 24 days at sea in blistering heat constituted cruelty to animals.

‘Unnecessary cruelty’

The cattle that are being transported to Iraq cannot be slaughtered and frozen before transportation as some will be slaughtered according to religious practices.

“We are against live animal export and believe the unnecessary cruelty should stop,” said protester Costa.

“The animals should be slaughtered in the country of origin and not have to endure immense suffering at sea for weeks at a time. They are forced to put up with extremely high temperatures, lack of space and high ammonia levels.”

Deidré Daniels from Four Paws, an organisation against the exporting of live animals, said the practice of exporting live animals from South Africa was growing. Sheep, cattle and goats are shipped across the world, sometimes for weeks at a time, to other countries, where they are killed.

She noted that several countries, including New Zealand and the UK, had banned or were planning to ban the practice.

“There is insufficient regulation in place and raising animals in the country simply to be transported to be killed in another means that South Africa bears the harmful impacts associated with animal agriculture while the importing country does not,” Daniels said.

She said animal welfare concerns include:

  • Maximum loading densities being exceeded, resulting in overcrowding, injuries and death.
  • Rough handling of animals during loading and unloading, causing fear and serious injuries.
  • Temperature limits being exceeded, resulting in animals dying of heat strokes or freezing to death.

The city’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross, condemned the horrific conditions the animals faced aboard the Al Kuwait.

“We are appreciative of these proactive efforts by SPCA officials to assess conditions on the ship. The city has further called on the Ports Authority and Border Management Authority to monitor any unlawful discharges of waste from the ship into the harbour. So far no instances of this have been confirmed.”

The stench from the ship was so severe on Monday that some companies sent their staff home early. DM

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nahiema Ahmed says:

    This is an inhumane practice Whatever happened to morality and ethics? You don’t need to be an animal lover, just a conscious, empathetic human being possessing the capacity to differentiate between right and wrong Imagine how you would feel being subjected to such appalling conditions & mistreated only to be slaughtered To the money mongers and all perpetrators of this act of abomination inflicted upon innocent creatures shame on your dark souls!!!

    • Geoff Coles says:

      The problem clearly is the demand for the ritual killing of animals coupled with the casual attitude of Middle East countries to ignore commonsense and make arrangements with the overseas supplier, in this instance, Brazil. That the ship docked in Cape Town was unplanned, goodness knows what it will be like arriving in the Persian Gulf.

  • Gabriel Smit says:

    … some [most] will be slaughtered according to religious practices…. – the crux of the matter!

  • ANC must GO says:

    Where is the SPCA? Impound the ship. This is just so horribly cruel. Arrest the captain.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “The animals should be slaughtered in the country of origin and not have to endure immense suffering at sea for weeks at a time. They are forced to put up with extremely high temperatures, lack of space and high ammonia levels.”

    Just another really stupid medieval religious belief that needs to be rethought.

    • Lynda Tyrer says:

      So agree with you I am so anti these religious groups and their , as you say, medival beliefs , its the 21st century time they changed.

    • Lauren H says:

      Actually, Islamic law states that any animal that is to be slaughtered must not ever be tortured and must be healthy, free of diseases and anything that could affect the quality of the meat (such as stress). So this practice of transporting live animals at sea for weeks on end goes against Islamic law. This is about a corporation caring only about its bottom line, not religion.

    • virginia crawford says:

      Does this medieval label include kosher too?

  • Cindy Rodkin says:

    This practice is so disgusting I am ashamed to be a human right now! Please please ban this practice – how could anyone’s god want them to do this ?

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      The conditions aboard this ship are completely contrary to Islamic teachings. Just like elsewhere in the world, corporate greed in the countries around the Persian Gulf is riding roughshod over traditional morals and beliefs of the people.

      Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq is still quite unstable more than two decades after Bush’s invasion, and the subsequent fight against ISIS/ISIL. There are also tensions between Sunni and Shiite groups, there is intermittent conflicts related to Kurdish separatism, reconstruction has very much been a stop-start process, and as a result, many things like this are not getting the attention it needs.

  • JDW 2023 says:

    Appalling. Just appalling. This stuff really should not be allowed to happen in the 21st century. This takes me back to that awful story of that ship that sunk in 2020 with thousands of cows onboard. Are the authorities in SA not able/willing to get involved?

  • Jennifer D says:

    How barbaric are humans that the feel it is ok to treat an animal like that. It is we rise up against this and other despicable practises where animals are housed in disgusting conditions with absolutely no consideration of the fear and terror they are experiencing. Where is our compassion or doesn’t it matter as long as you have your wors at your braai on Sunday. Disgusting, inhumane, evil are a few words I have for people that promote this behaviour. It’s hard to even express the anger and grief I feel seeing those poor creatures suffer like that.

  • jacki watts says:

    What a species humans are….!!!

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    “WARNING: Photographs below may distress readers.” “Distressed” is too mild a word for how we all should feel when confronted with such inhumane treatment to sentient beings. Might I suggest “horror”. The photos should be enlarged and placed on billboards. And so also should the public be made to confront what is happening daily in our factory farms.

  • viewer_apnea04 says:

    The SPCA should have full might of the law and have jurisdiction to arrest and charge people for cruelty and confiscate animals that are visibly in distress, and send these awful death ships back, empty, their countries of origin. Preferably with an irreparable hole in the bottom of it so it sinks along the way. At least it could serve as a frame for a new coral reef in the ocean.

  • Luan Sml says:

    The export of livestock via ship should be banned world wide, either raise your own cattle in-country or eat the imported frozen carcass or go without! There is NO justification for this abhorrent and cruel practice which has no regard for the terrible conditions these animals must endure before being offloaded for slaughter!
    As always, it’s all about the money… 😡

  • I have one question. How on earth can you justify slaughtering according to Religious Practices after been transported in such an inhuman way. That is really sick!

  • tess.maritz says:

    Absolutely disgusting and deplorable

  • mike van wyk says:

    Seeing these animals kept in such unhygienic and inhumane conditions is distressing to say the least. This system of livestock deliver to a third party thousands of miles away is not practical, logical or legal. The suffering these animals are enduring cannot be condoned. I am a meat eater, and I would stop consuming meat if I knew that what I consumed was brought to slaughter in such cruel and unhygienic conditions. As soon as a ship docks in SA it should comply with local law and be subjected to inspection. The crew are very likely hosing down the livestock and holding pens with seawater which will also impact the animals well-being. The article states that this consignment of livestock is headed to a muslim state which requires certain religious rites be administered at slaughter for halal certification. South Africa has an extensive muslim population and our retail industry provides services for halal certification locally. I am sure that the same exists in other states where livestock is being exported. There is no reason to ship animals for the reason given. Shipments of animal products should always be delivered slaughtered in a humane fashion as per the highest industry standards and in a frozen state for safety of end consumer. Hopefully the authorities ban this method of shipment for all the reasons given.

  • Paul Dobson says:

    This cruelty is totally unnecessary. The excuse that ‘religious practices’ demand this barbarism is beyond comprehension. I wonder how these poor creatures are finally slaughtered, probably also in some barbaric method. All in the name of ‘Religion’.

  • Viviana Smith says:

    I have no idea how anyone with a shred of humanity can justify doing this to animals simply in order to slaughter them in line with a religious requirement. Surely if you are this religious you would rather forego the consumption of meat than treat God’s creatures in such a terrible manner. I wonder if the ultimate consumers realize? – another reason why we should legislate that all food should disclose it’s origin and supply chain so consumers can choose. It’s the best way to shut these practices down. As for those profiting off of this ship and similar activities, I question whether there is redemption available to someone who would fund this sort of operation.

  • Neil Kirkwood says:

    You know where the ship is going what else would you expect.

  • This is horrific and is absolutely animal cruelty!

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    The cruelty of livestock export needs to be totally banned. That any humans think its okay they should be treated the same.

  • Deon Schoeman says:

    This is criminal!!!

  • Max Ulf says:

    And then they wonder when there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease…

  • Brian Kritzinger says:

    From beasts we scorn as soulless,
    In forest, field and den,
    The cry goes up to witness
    The soullessness of men.

    M. Frida Hartley

  • Paul Alberts says:

    Please correct me, was it not a Muslim Judge that ruled against the SPCA in the Cape High Court and allowed the ship continuing ?

  • This is both heartbreaking and infuriating.

  • Lee Richardson says:

    Is this still considered halaal?

  • Eddie B says:

    This is beyond disgusting! Shame on you Brazil. Shame on you Iraq.

  • Martin Broomberg says:

    In the name of “God and Religion”…..impound the ship, release the animals, and arrest the Captain and Crew.

  • TEC Custom says:

    When human behaviour such as this manifests as normal in our daily lives it reinforces my belief that we as a species should stop existing ….SOONEST …FFS

  • Donald bemax says:

    The people responsible should be rounded up and given a one way passage on the same vessel.I guarantee
    they will alight the ship as vegetarians. These disgusting acts of mankind in the name of religion are beyond comprehension.

  • otto holicki says:

    Indeed, and after enduring this cruelty, the animals still face a rather cruel and inhumane slaughter. Halal does not permit the stunning of animals – they are fully conscious when their throats are cut and then left to bleed to death!

  • Bev Stevens says:

    This is totally unacceptable. Why can the animals not be slaughtered in the country of origin under the required religious regulations? This is so disgusting, and to think South Africa allows this. And all in the name of religion? What kind of higher being would condone this?

  • Shaune Jordaan says:

    2024 and humans are barbaric. One day our extinction is coming. We simply cannot be humane.

  • MI CT says:

    With Iraq being a muslim country, I assume the “religious practice” is Halal. So I googled the ethnicity of the Halal – “Halal meat is subject to strict guidelines regarding the conditions in which the animal is raised, fed, and treated before it is slaughtered. These guidelines are designed to ensure that the animal is treated with dignity and respect throughout its life and that it is not subjected to any unnecessary suffering or harm.”

    Seems like the direct opposite of what Halal is all about to me. How can this be better than slaughtering humanely at source?

  • Daniel Cohen says:

    I read a post in another publication from a practising Muslim that said that animals subjected to the treatment detailed in this article can never be halaal. The Koran forbids the inhumane treatment of animals.

  • greigdoveygd says:

    This is the same problem that was experienced years ago when sheep were exported live from New Zeeland and Australia to the Middle East and the practice was stopped because of this very same thing – many sheep never made the journey!! The Brazilians don’t care because they are making money and the Arabs don’t care either – these cattle will be put in feed lots for a few weeks and then be slaughtered.

  • Common Sense Is not common says:

    This has me blubbing into my morning coffee! Completely cruel and awful. I’m an animal lover, but not a vegetarian. I think I have just become both.

  • Common Sense Is not common says:

    I would also like to know what I can do. We can’t allow this to continue!

  • efjacobs86 says:

    And this is Halal?

  • Meg C says:

    What a terrible, terrible world we live in. This story upset me to my very core. I am devastated by this absolute lack of empathy. Worse, that for just a second, these creatures are granted reprieve in our harbour. Only to be released back into the hands of their abusers – and a cruel journey that includes more livestock loaded in East London harbour and then an inevitable slow death.
    How hopeless this seems. What can we do? Who do we write, email, message?
    Arrest the captain
    Impound the ship

  • Andrew Newman says:

    Thank Kuwait.
    It is owned by Kuwait, the trade is probably done by Kuwait and they even put their name and flag on it.
    Seems it is fully supported by the Kuwaiti Royal family.
    Has any journalist got comment from Kuwait?

  • This is distressing. We need to do better.

  • Michael Schirmacher says:

    disgusting cruelty to the animals, should be banned

  • Penny Philip says:

    This is appalling! Why is SA allowing this ship to continue it’s barbaric trade in our waters? Regardless of why it stopped in Cape Town, this ship needs to be escorted out & refused any future docking at SA ports. Why can the Kuwaiti’s involved not send the appropriately qualified religious people to Brazil to do the ritual slaughter there.

    • Ben Harper says:

      International Maritime Law and the Right of Free Passage, Territorial Waters only extend 12nm from the coastline, anything beyond that is deemed International Waters and the Right of Free Passage applies

  • G. Strauss says:

    Civilised human beings? This is so beyond barbaric, I feel ashamed to be alive today.

  • Philip Patrick says:

    Impound them. Charge the ships owners with cruelty to animals. Remove the cattle from the ship.
    They are in South African waters and the government should take action. Of course, if they are not beholden by the exporters.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    As someone who is in the process of trying to reduce their intake of animal products… I have to say that as much as this clearly shocks many of us, unless you are a Vegan or a meat eater who ONLY eats from know sources, you are, sadly, part of the problem.

    Don’t kid yourself. The animals on industrial farms and dairy’s across SA aren’t having much better of a time, and the damage we are doing to sea life isn’t much different.

    We need to all take a long hard look at ourselves and our food choices because there ARE alternatives which are healthy and which dont require the abuse of intelligent creatures.

  • dexter m says:

    The sad part of this article is that this is not an isolated case. This is common in transport of animals for slaughter ,only the ones the media pick up get highlighted. A couple of years ago there was a case that made headlines in Australia .

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Found another reference to the cattle transport to Middle East. -Earlier this month, a ship carrying more than 16,000 cattle and sheep also bound for the Middle East returned to Australia after becoming stranded at sea for nearly a month due to the attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. Australia’s government refused an application to try again to re-export the animals via a longer route past South Africa, saying it was unable to be sure “the arrangements for the transport of the livestock to their final overseas destination are appropriate to ensure their health and welfare”.

  • Mandy P says:

    This entire article made me cry and terribly heartsore for these sentient beings.
    No creature should EVER be subjected to this. The real crux of the matter is demand and therefore supply. Commercial animal farming (as we should all know by now) is a massive contributor to greenhouse gasses, massive water consumption and overall cruelty wherever animals are farmed and kept for commercial purposes. The time for change is now before we completely destroy our planet and all its natural resources. If there was less (or no) demand for meat, dairy products and any other products or uses for animal by-products, including fishing, the cruelty would certainly be far less and eventually hopefully phased out. Human greed and the disrespect and for all sentient beings on it should be our focus to preserve and care for. Animal transport en-masse should be outlawed around the world and the countries who are contributing to this by selling or buying animals should be heavily targeted to cease this immediately. To hide behind religion is despicable – the people who are involved in any part of this have absolutely no souls, ethics or morals. This is pure greed for profit and nothing else.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Released the animals. Ban ships with live animals from docking. Read about the ship full of animals that went from Australia turned back at the Red Sea and then stayed off the coast and the owners refused to land the animals! They were hoping to turn the ship around and go back again. I doubt that many in the Middle East realise how and where these animals come from. A publicity campaign there would help.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.