The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) provided a report to the government on 23 September 2019, outlining the welfare concerns and foreseeable contraventions of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962. These contraventions are already happening on board the Al-Shuwaikh which is only on day three of loading. 30 000 animals have already been loaded.

The ammonia levels, on board the vessel, are already higher than levels that are considered safe – this was measured by our inspectors yesterday afternoon – the sheep had not even been on board for 24 hours. This will only get worse as time goes on with the build-up of excrement bearing in mind that the ship will not be cleaned until the animals have disembarked. Handling has been inhumane, injured animals have been loaded, and one of our inspectors was assaulted while trying to examine a compromised animal.

The NSPCA has had to enforce their warrants at both the harbour and the feedlot, and have been met with hostility and obstruction. This has not only been the case with the Al Muwashi and Page Farming Trust staff, but the NSPCA has been hindered by Transnet, as well as the South African Police Services (SAPS), but fortunately their higher echelons have been extremely helpful.

Al-Mawashi’s attorney contested certain conditions of the NSPCA’s warrant yesterday in court, however, the Magistrate upheld the warrant, in favour of the NSPCA.

The NSPCA met with the Eastern Cape provincial department on 1 October 2019 when they were advised that the government had given the green light for the loading to begin. The NSPCA asked the department representatives how they could allow this to happen – their response was that they do not issue permits for the vessel or animal welfare, but rather health certificates for the animals.

On closer investigation of these health certificates, it was noted that they are only signed just before the ship departs and that there are no health restrictions – this means that as long as the sheep come from a ‘Foot and Mouth Disease free area’, among other diseases, the importing country would accept the animals regardless of their health. Sheep were being assessed, after blood test results were positive for Blue Tongue and further blood work was being processed – regardless, this has not affected the loading.

The circumstances surrounding the acceptance of these veterinary health certificates by the government are dubious considering the ongoing testing, the potential disease, and the fact that these will be certified by a veterinarian in a junior position in spite of the controversy of this shipment and the huge public outcry – one would think that the most senior representative of the department would make this call. This is day three of loading and we still have not seen any veterinarians from the Eastern Cape Province board the ship. Considering the size of the consignment, it would be expected that the government would have a responsibility to monitor the loading.

The NSPCA will be laying charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 against the South African Government, as well as assault charges and multiple charges of obstruction against the personnel that assaulted and hindered our members in fulfilling their duties.

Our attorney was on board the ship and the NSPCA is reviewing further legal options.

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