Protest against live animal shipping grows
01 October 2020 | Agriculture
Public opposition continues to grow against a proposed business plan to import as many as 125 000 live farm animals into Namibia for export over thousands of kilometres via sea to the Middle East.
A petition launched last month grew from just 1 000 signatures at the start of September to more than 6 700 signatures by this week.
The petitioners strongly condemn the proposed plan of Tradeport Namibia to import and export up to 70 000 sheep, 50 000 goats and 5 000 cattle along the Trans-Oranje / Kalahari corridor through the ports of Lüderitz or Walvis Bay to the Middle East for fattening and slaughter.
Tradeport Namibia made headlines two years when the company was found to import manganese ore into Lüderitz port without the necessary environmental clearance certificates. Since then they obtained the required paperwork and continue to import and export manganese.
Numerous reports of animal abuse connected with the live shipment industry have emerged in recent years, showing harrowing footage of the suffering the animals endure onboard and prior to being shipped.
“Please stop this horrendous live transport of animals,” one protester writes, while another describes the trade as “cruel and sick”.
These outcries are not limited to individuals but reflect growing international research and exposés that prove the trade’s inevitable cost of suffering to the animals. “Every animal welfare group in the world opposes live export by sea because of the inherent animal suffering and risks that can never be overcome,” Dr Chris Brown of the Namibia Chamber of Environment said recently.
So intrinsic and unavoidable are these risks to the trade, that in Australia, government policy stipulates that 1% of every consignment can die during the voyage before a government investigation is triggered. “This equates to thousands of animals dying at sea every year and some millions over the decades that live export has operated from Australia,” Brown said.
Another concern is the environmental damage caused by the live export as ships carrying livestock dump untreated sewage into the ocean, which equates to hundreds of tonnes of sewage per day.
“The ships also dump carcasses of the animals that die onboard into the ocean. The damage on ocean ecosystems cannot be ignored,” Brown added.
Scientists point out that in addition to the cruelty, Namibia would do better economically to process the meat locally.
“In economic terms, the trade does not stack up. The commercial benefits of the live animal export trade are centred on the company seeking to take the animals. It robs the local economy of the value-add of processing the animals within the country,” Brown said.
Days after the petition was launched, the agriculture ministry issued a statement, noting that it “does not allow importation and in-transit of livestock and other cloven-hoofed animals from South Africa” due to the ongoing Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak there.
Some say the project is dead in the water due to the challenges they will face to obtain the necessary documentation.
Last month Paul Strydom of the Namibian Meat Board pointed out that Botswana has an embargo in place on the export of cattle to both Namibia and South Africa. He added that livestock exports go against the grain of Namibia’s Growth at Home Strategy.
Brown said research has consistently found that live sea exports do not bear any long-term economic benefits for countries.
He added that all Middle East nationals import large amounts of chilled and frozen meat, which “makes more economic sense for the exporting nation to keep jobs in the country and to export the meat instead”.
Legal and political upheaval
Brown also warned that globally, including in Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Israel and South Africa, the trade is engulfed in legal and political upheaval because it breaches animal welfare legislation. As the global community is informed about the toll of this trade to animals and the environment, it is increasingly seeing countries ban it.
“The Namibian government must be mindful that cruelty in the live export trade has led to media exposé after media exposé in Australia, causing damage to Australia’s reputation. Also, the live export trade is now coming to Namibia because it has been banned or restricted from taking animals from other countries due to cruelty issues.”
Moreover, the operation of the live animal export trade breaches Namibian animal welfare laws and standards, he said.
The animals experience extreme temperatures and long hours of trucking without rest, food or water, which is just the start of a long and arduous journey over thousands of kilometres by sea during which the animals are prevented from being able to lie down due to stocking densities.
The animals are exposed to conditions such as salmonellosis, heat stress, pneumonia, and high mortality rates.
The animals suffer and routinely die on board the vessels from a condition called ‘shy feeding’ or ‘enteritis’. Over weeks onboard the ship, the animals coats become thickly coated with faeces because they are so densely packed, exacerbating the risks of disease, stress and death.
Not on hold
While Tradeport director Monty Ndjavera in early September said he had given instructions to put on hold the environmental clearance application, it remains ongoing.
By last week Vilho Mtuleni of Enviro-Leap consulting said that no formal instructions were received up to date to stop the EIA application process.
Mtuleni said the process will be handled neutrally and objectively and the public will be engaged accordingly as far as the assessment is concerned.