CAIRO: A leading international animal rights organization has called on Egypt to allow a ship that has seen some 2,700 cattle die on board a live export ship from Brazil to dock in the country.
Animals Australia, the leading organization reporting on the controversial live export trade to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, said the current incident is among the worst the industry has witnessed in years.
Animals Australia’s Campaign Director, Lyn White, said in a statement to Bikyamasr.com that the ship is anchored at sea after being refused port in a number of countries, including Egypt, where the cattle were supposed to be offloaded.
“Animals Australia has been working overnight with international colleague groups to find refuge for the surviving 2,000 cattle after Egyptian authorities refused to allow the animals to be unloaded.”
It’s understood that ventilation problems on the recently converted livestock vessel, the MV Gracia Del Mar, has caused the deaths of more than half of the animals on board since the ship left South America for Egypt a few weeks ago. The ship has been anchored in the Red Sea for over a week.
“This is nothing short of an animal welfare disaster. If remaining cattle are not offloaded more of these animals will suffer appalling deaths at sea. We are appealing to authorities in Egypt to offload the remaining cattle at al-Sohkna, as was originally intended.
“This disaster is just another example of the inherent risks of transporting animals by sea. It was only nine years ago that 5,000 Australian sheep perished on board the MV Cormo Express after country after country refused to allow it to berth.
“And this isn’t the first time that mechanical issues have caused mass deaths on live export ships. We only need to look to the breakdown of the Al Messilah in Adelaide last year. Had that vessel broken down on the open ocean it would have caused a similar welfare catastrophe — as thousands of animals would have died.
“Australia also exports cattle to Al Sohkna Livestock company in Egypt. Whilst we have an MoU with Egypt which should ensure the offloading of our animals, it has never been put to the test. The Egyptians thus far have flatly refused to allow the MV Gracia Del Mar to dock despite the mass suffering of the animals on board.
“If they continue to refuse to allow the surviving animals to be unloaded it would provide little confidence that the non-binding agreement with Australia would be honoured if a similar incident were to occur on an Australian livestock ship.
“It should not matter if these cattle aren’t Australian and if Brazil doesn’t have a similar piece of paper, they should not be abandoned to suffer and die at sea. We are appealing to Egyptian authorities to offload these cattle as a matter of urgency.”
Australia’s live sheep exports have fallen significantly over the past decade.
In 2010, three million sheep were exported compared with 6.3 million in 2001.
Australia’s government last year was to see a bill that would have banned live export to the world, but industry lobbyists fought back and forced the legislation off the table in a move that angered animal activists in the country and across the world, notably the Islamic world, which receives the lion’s share of live cattle and sheep from both Australia and Brazil.
By Joseph Mayton, Bikya Masr