Namibians say no to live animal shipping
09 September 2020 | Agriculture
Nearly a thousand people have signed a petition demanding a stop to a proposed business plan that would see thousands of live farm animals shipped to the Middle East from Namibian ports.
Titled “Say NO to livestock by sea”, the petition was launched by the Namibian Animal Welfare Association (NAWA) in response to a business plan to transport live sheep, cattle and goats from Namibia to Kuwait for slaughter.
The business proposal by Tradeport Namibia is outlined in a Background Information Document (BID), which forms part of the company’s application for an environmental clearance certificate.
The BID states that the proposed operation would entail importing 70 000 live sheep, 50 000 goats and 5 000 cattle from South Africa and Botswana via Ariamsvlei for export from either Lüderitz or Walvis Bay to the Middle East. The animals would be held at Ariamsvlei until there are adequate numbers for further transport to the ports, and then be exported via sea to the Middle East.
The BID notes that in terms of animal welfare, the import and export of live animals is “inherently high-risk to animal welfare while on the voyage, particularly during the summer season” and lists several issues to mitigate on.
However, internationally the shipment of live farm animals has attracted increasing resistance resulting in blanket bans in some countries and ongoing litigation elsewhere.
NAWA warns that apart from the numerous animal welfare risks inherent on long-distance voyages, Namibia’s international reputation can also take a hit.
For example, there is litigation in the UK to stop the practice; the European Union is investigating welfare violations as non-compliance with directives governing the trade; and Australia allows live export only on condition that a vet accompanies each shipment to their destination, and that all exported animals are subject to strict Australian animal welfare standards.
On 3 September 2020, New Zealand suspended all live exports; and in Israel, a bill to phase out the import of live animals passed the preliminary stages in parliament.
NAWA also noted this week that there are inadequate measures in place to ensure the welfare of animals in dense and crowded conditions on ships. Moreover, they say insufficient regulations, if any, are in place to ensure their well-being.
Namibia’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) this week issued their opposition to the proposed business plan. “In 2020 there is no justifiable reason to ship animals 7 000km by sea to endure a potentially brutal death in a foreign country, especially given that the Middle East nations currently import large amounts of chilled and frozen meat,” the SPCA stated.
The SPCA added that from a legal perspective, “this practice undermines Namibian laws and standards”.
The SPCA warned that giving the green light to live export of animals by sea would “effectively endorse an archaic trade that is struggling to maintain a social license to operate in this day and age”.
They also warned that the trade has only been able to continue for as long as it has “because it has operated under a veil of secrecy for many decades”.
Moreover, the organisation underlined that from an economic perspective, it is more advantageous to process meat within Namibia than for the country to serve as a waypoint for outside companies.
In terms of acquiring the sufficient number of animals, Tradeport Namibia could face challenges.
Paul Strydom of the Meat Board of Namibia in a brief statement on Tuesday said that Botswana has an embargo in place currently on the export of cattle to both Namibia and South Africa.
He added that South Africa lost its World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) free status and “thus are not able to export livestock in such quantities to Namibia”.
Moreover, “livestock exports by sea are against Namibia’s Growth at Home Strategy, and is not a preferred method of export”.
Lastly, he explained that Namibia’s post-drought status has severely undercut livestock quantities, raising the questions on the “viability of this exercise”.
Monty Ndjavera of Tradeport Namibia yesterday said he was not aware of the petition against the business venture, saying the company is a “logistics company and anything to do with transportation, we want to be a part of it. But, we are not here to break any law, Namibian, international or otherwise.”
He stressed that the proposed business is only at the initial stages.
Ndjavera said if there are problems related to such a business venture, “we can abandon the idea, and start something else”.
Tony Gerrans, Africa’s executive director for the Humane Society International (HSI) wrote recently that “transporting tens of thousands of sentient animals on a vessel means they endure 21 days of being packed together in pens without proper food and care, standing in their own excrement, breathing in ammonia which can lead to respiratory problems, exposed to the perpetual noise of the ship’s motors and to heat stress which can be so extreme as to kill the animals.”
Among the grave welfare concerns documented by animal rights organisations over the years are that the animals are kept in confined spaces in pens on multiple decks, forced to stand on hard steel floors unsuitable for hooved animals.
They are often so tightly packed together that they are unable to lie down for the duration of the journey.
The faeces and urine of thousands of sheep are not cleaned for the entire journey, forcing the animals to stand in their own and others’ excrement, which can lead to infection.
Sheep are fed pellets that can result in digestive issues for ruminant animals used to eating grass.
Some animals struggle to reach the automated food and water troughs, which can become contaminated with excrement.