Sea freight livestock plans back on the table
15 September 2021 | Agriculture
A Namibian company’s plans to transport thousands of sheep via Namibia from South Africa for export by sea to the Middle East continues to draw strong opposition globally and locally.
Enviro-Leap consultant’s draft scoping report compiled on behalf of Tradeport Namibia, an import and export company, details their plans to become involved in the internationally contentious trade of livestock shipping by sea.
The company proposes to transport thousands of sheep from South Africa by truck into Namibia, and shipping between 10 000 to 70 000 animals per voyage from the port of Lüderitz to the Middle East every two to three months.
They briefly put their plans on hold last year in the wake of strong local opposition.
The recently issued scoping report highlights last year’s opposition in which local opponents cited increasing international evidence of the high risks of suffering, injury, disease and deaths of animals on long sea voyages.
The draft scoping report downplays a petition launched last year by a local animal welfare organisation, Namibia Animal Welfare Association (NAWA) that has attracted more than 31 000 signatures to date.
The report states that the signatures do not reflect serious local resistance.
The report notes that the majority of signatories hail from the “western world” and “provides a glance on their perception on how they would impose their interest and influence on development in Africa”.
However, local opposition remains firm. Several organisations confirmed this week they are in the process of compiling stakeholder responses to be submitted later this week.
“I still strongly oppose the plan, and do not think that Namibia should condone what is inherently a cruel practice,” a Namibian scientist said this week.
She stressed that while the scoping report “paints a picture” that there are sufficient mitigating measures that can be put in place on ships to lessen animal suffering on the long journey, this is just an attempt to “gloss over” the multitude of risks the animals face onboard and on arrival.
Internationally and locally however, supporters of a wholesale ban of live animal shipping have stressed there are no available tools to lessen suffering onboard.
“Globally, the tide is turning against live animal export because it does not accord with acceptable animal welfare standards, and it involves risks that simply cannot be mitigated,” the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Namibia said.
The Enviro-Leap scoping report notes that while they aim to address welfare issues that could arise from the long distance travel via land and sea, Namibia is not legally liable for anything that happens outside its jurisdiction.
“Tradeport will only assume responsibility for shipments until the vessel leaves Lüderitz, [and] basically pushes away any accountability for the sea voyage,” the scientist, who declined to be named, pointed out.
Fortune magazine in July this year reported on the deaths of thousands of cattle and sheep on sea journeys in the span of a year due to conditions onboard. Moreover, crew have died and ocean pollution stemming from animal waste and carcasses being thrown overboard is common.
Trade unions have also criticised the conditions for workers onboard, following a whistleblowers release of secretly filmed footage onboard an animal freight ship.
The United Kingdom and New Zealand are preparing to phase out live export of animals for slaughter altogether.
A farmer and European parliamentarian told Fortune that animal welfare at sea “is a big black hole. Ship transports completely fall outside of any regulations or animal-welfare standards.”
Australian veterinarian Lynn Simpson described the trade as “a nasty, cruel, draconian trade, reliant on cruelty and suffering to be profitable, that no civilised country should want to be part of in 2020 onwards”.
She was an onboard vet for 57 live animal voyages.
Speaking to Namibia Media Holdings last year, she said no onboard protocols can address the “widespread and predictable animal suffering and deaths due to the inherently cruel nature of this trade”.
Namibia Chamber of Environment CEO Chris Brown warned that the trade has been engulfed in bad press for consistently breaching basic international animal welfare standards.
He cautioned that Namibia should be mindful of becoming involved in a trade that has seen restrictions and bans “due to cruelty issues”.
Tradeport’s scoping report states “the proposed project is considered to have, despite the animal welfare concerns raised - which can also be mitigated - overall low negative environmental impact and overall higher positive socio-economic impact.”
The authors argue that banning a trade because of animal welfare concerns raises the question “where one draws the line as to whose rights must be upheld above the other”.
The report claims the scheme will benefit Namibia on several fronts, including taxes, skill transfers, investment opportunities and jobs.