Like lambs to the slaughter, the long-standing legal tussle over the export of live sheep reared by a Eastern Cape farmers’ group has now escalated to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) is not backing down after its application for an interdict halting these exports by a leading exporter, Al Mawashi South Africa, was overturned in August 2020.
The Makanda High Court also denied the animal welfare organisation leave to appeal.
While the live export of animals by sea is not banned in any country, the NSPCA argues that it is cruel and should be banned. Al Mawashi South Africa is the largest buyer and exporter of South African sheep.
The live exports industry has the potential to inject R1 billion a year into the Eastern Cape’s agricultural economy.
In a media release, managing director of Al Mawashi South Africa, Ilyaas Ally, relays their disappointment at “the NSPCA’s latest manoeuvres to stifle live animal export”.
“NSPCA’s leadership continues to attack the livelihoods of farmers and food security of Gulf nations with ill-thought requests that are not enshrined as regulation by the South African government,” says Ally.
Ally is of the opinion that the NSPCA of using the appeal attempt as a delaying tactic.
“The NSPCA’s ongoing litigation and past track record of failed interdicts is causing supply chain delays and is jeopardising the Eastern Cape’s agriculture economy, South Africa’s Middle East trade relations, and the livelihoods of farmers and businesses participating in live exports,” he says.
Ally says the NSPCA’s opposition caused an additional shipment to the value of R150 million to be forfeited between June and August last year.
“With an ailing economy induced by Covid-19 devastation and drought, the Eastern Cape cannot afford another shipment of R150 million for the first quarter of 2021 to be put into jeopardy by the NSPCA,” says Ally.
Al Mawashi further claims that the NSPCA is being commandeered by radical South African and international animal rights and anti-red meat advocacy groups.
NSPCA hits back
The NSPCA has vehemently denied all claims that they were “fundamentally anti-humanistic.”
The organisation has also accused Al Mawashi of overstating the impact of the deals on small-scale farmers.
In September 2020, a fleet of some 50 000 sheep embarked on their voyage to their new home in Kuwait.
According to the NSPCA, only 11 288 of the sheep were purchased from emerging farmers while a vast majority was supplied by commercial farmers in the province.
“We then have to wonder, how have marginalized groups and communities benefited from these exports when 84.32% of the animals purchased by Al Mawashi favour commercial farmers?” it asked.
“It appears that Al Mawashi has attempted to conflate criminal proceedings for cruelty with other matters by stating that the NSPCA ‘failed on five occasions in South African courts (with costs) to ban live exports.’
“Al Mawashi failed to mention that Judge Bloem did identify cruelty in the Makhanda High Court. The NSPCA has lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeals,” says the animal rights group.
According to Ally the NSPCA in January proposed that their representatives board and accompany the Al Messilah livestock vessel during voyages from South Africa to the Middle East, as “independent observers, which they are not”.
“We have no objection to neutral independent observers, provided their role and reporting duties are set out in a regulatory framework,” says Ally.
“You cannot be implacably opposed to live animal export and then hold yourselves up as ‘neutral’ observers. By its own admission, NSPCA condemns live export. Its rhetoric condemning this as inherently cruel is continuously repeated in court papers, in the media and the NSPCA’s own communication channels,” says Ally.
“The NSPCA has proclaimed such systemic bias, that they simply cannot be trusted. Their chequered track-record of misleading the public about live export is well documented and has left a question mark over the NSPCA’s credibility. “
There is nothing stopping the NSPCA from visiting Gulf countries to witness the condition of animals being offloaded after voyages from South Africa to Middle Eastern destinations, Ally says.
Live exports have been done for over a decade from East London harbour.