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Why authorities could not confiscate distressed cattle on Al Kuwait livestock carrier

Why authorities could not confiscate distressed cattle on Al Kuwait livestock carrier
The Al Kuwait docks at Cape Town on 19 February 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Authorities feared the risk of foreign disease, which is why the animals could not be introduced into South Africa.

People are questioning why the authorities did not confiscate the distressed cattle on board the Al Kuwait and allowed them to continue their journey to Iraq.

This week, Cape Town made headlines following the docking of the Al Kuwait, the livestock carrier dubbed the “death ship” by activists, on Sunday evening. 

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

The Al Kuwait made an emergency docking with 19,000 cattle after being at sea for eight days from Brazil. It docked for animal feed and fuel. South African authorities conducted medical assessments of the animals and administered necessary medical care.

Pictures leaked to Daily Maverick exposed the animals’ unhygienic and inhumane living conditions on the ship. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Inside the stinking ship at Cape Town harbour carrying 19,000 cattle to the Middle East

Animal activists and lovers wanted the cattle confiscated and taken for treatment in the country. 

In a similar incident in East London last year, a feedlot manager in Berlin (Ntabozuko) near East London, working for the Kuwaiti company Al Mawashi, cut off the horns of 126 rams with an angle grinder, painfully exposing nerves, blood vessels and soft tissue. 

The next morning, NSPCA chief inspector Nazareth Appalsamy found blood flowing out of the feedlot and rams’ coats bloodied from the wounds. Appalsamy called the police, who arrested the manager. 

According to the Animals Protection Act, actions such as cruelly torturing or maiming any animal is an offence. The NSPCA confiscated the rams and moved them to a place of safety where they received treatment. 

In the Al Kuwait  incident, while there were dead cattle and signs of animal cruelty, authorities feared that confiscating the cargo would introduce foreign diseases to South Africa since the cattle did not originate from the country. 

“We work in terms of the Animals Protection Act,” said Jacques Peacock of the NSPCA. “Secondly, the animals aboard come from Brazil. There was a serious risk of foreign disease, which is why the animals cannot be introduced into South Africa.” 

Daily Maverick has also received unconfirmed claims that are circulating within certain animal rights groups that the cows from the ship, dead and alive, were being dumped in the middle of the ocean. The reports claimed the live cows were being dumped because they were unsuitable for slaughter. 

Peacock said they were not aware of these reports and emphasised the need for on-board carcass handling and storage equipment.

“Carcass disposal must be described through a Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) in line with applicable international and local legislations and approved by the on-board veterinarian.” 

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), animal carcasses may only be discharged into the sea when: The ship is not in a Marpol [ International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships0 designated special area; The ship is en route and the discharge is as far as possible from the nearest land; The carcass has been slit or cut so that its thoracic and abdominal cavities are opened or passed through a comminutor, grinder, mincer or similar equipment; and the discharge is undertaken in accordance with section 2.12 of the 2017 Guidelines.

“If the Al Kuwait (ship) does not comply with the above, the Samsa would have to intervene, as our authority extends to animal welfare. The allegations of live animals being thrown overboard are concerning, although unlikely, as they still stand to gain financially, even from ‘now unsuitable’ animals. These are the conditions in which animals are transported by sea and previous animals have been offloaded and sold in these conditions over many years. So, we do not buy the story that these animals are now ‘unsuitable’, as this has been standard practice in the live export industry.” 

Department of Transport spokesperson Collen Msibi said the vessel applied on 9 February 2024 for Cargo Works, Bunkers and Lubes and the department cleared it on 16 February. This refers to animal feed, water for human consumption and for livestock, medical equipment and medication, as well as food for human consumption. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • eish Effedup says:

    What a lame excuse. The animals could have been quarantained. The boat should have been impounded and sold to the highest bidder. Same for the cattle. But as usual we only get inaction from the present government.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The animals were going to die in the end, whether here or in UAE. That sad ship and its cargo would be more dignified if it was emptied of oils and scuttled to form a reef. That way the animals would die in 40 seconds not days. We should not offer port facilities to ships like this.

    Yes I eat red meat but I do try and source from ethical sources. Can’t vouch for restaurants, but the butcher we buy from is on same page as us.

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