SPCA acts against "ships of shame"

The animal rights organisation argues that animals suffer while being transported at sea.

The organisation argues that animals suffer while being transported to Mauritius. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The National Council of SPCA's (NSPCA) has lodged an urgent application against the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in the Grahamstown High Court on Wednesday to prevent the export of live animals by sea.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) reacted in what has been referred to as 'groundbreaking legal action' to stop a "ship of shame" - The Barkly Pearl - on its way to East London to load cattle to be slaughtered in Mauritius.

The NSPCA has long opposed the export of live animals for slaughter, considering the practice to be archaic and cruel.

The practice was exposed on two occasions on the MNET actuality programme Carte Blanche when stark footage of the harsh reality and the suffering of animals was broadcast on both occasions to a public outcry.

The SPCA's Andries Venter says the organisation will not stand by and let animals suffer.

"Some of them die; some of them break their legs, all due to the conditions on the ship."

"There are alternatives. Exporting meat rather than live animals is preferable."

Venter confirmed an application has been lodged at the Grahamstown High Court to prevent another shipment of cattle to Mauritius.

The SPCA has also received support from Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa, Activists for Animals Africa, Animal Allies and Community Led Animal Welfare.

"We took this route to prevent suffering," explained NSPCA Executive Director Marcelle Meredith. Over and above the "travelling time" it can take two days to load the animals and two days to off-load them. There is no guarantee how long vessels will be at sea.

Delays can result in food running out and animals dying of starvation. Feed and water shortages have occured and food becomes contaminated with sea water. It is also difficult to feed the animals in rough seas.

During the transportation the animals are kept in an artificial environment. The temperature and ventilation on the vessel are not necessarily effective or correct. The animals also suffer severely from motion sickness.

The build up of faeces and urine especially below deck leads to conditions becoming slippery for the animals as well as ammonia levels increasing which leads to breathing-related problems.

The Department of Agriculture says it will respond once it has seen the full contents of the court order.