NSPCA vs Al Mawashi: The R1 Billion Live Animal Export Battle Goes To The Supreme Court

Al Mawashi South Africa, the largest buyer and exporter of South African sheep, has expressed disappointment at the NSPCA’s latest “manoeuvres” to stifle live animal export — an industry with the potential to inject R1 billion a year into the Eastern Cape’s agricultural economy.

Al Mawashi says that Although the transport of animals by sea is not banned in any country of the world, the NSPCA is arguing that it is inherently cruel and should be banned through ongoing litigation against live animal exports by sea.

Ilyaas Ally, Managing Director for Al Mawashi South Africa said: “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.”

“In a new twist, the NSPCA in January proposed that we allow its representatives, who are opposed to live exports, to board and accompany the Al Messilah livestock vessel during voyages from SA to the Middle East, as so-called 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. 

“The NSPCA has no legislative power to formulate and promulgate regulations for live exports.  The South African government is the regulatory body for live exports and Al Mawashi complies with all the applicable rules and regulations”. 

Al Mawashi South Africa said it believes the NSPCA is the most unqualified association for independent observation during live export voyages.

“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,” said Mr. 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.   Live exports have been done for over a decade from East London harbour.  

The NSPCA is now heading to the Supreme Court of Appeal after its application to appeal the Makanda High Court’s ruling on Part A was dismissed.

Last year, the two organisations battled it out in court and Al Mawashi says its legal counsel presented scientific evidence to negate the allegations of heat stress in animals travelling on livestock carriers to Middle Eastern destinations.

This after the NSPCA obtained an interim interdict to prohibit Al Mawashi from exporting sheep to the Middle East in the first part of its two-prong strategy to ban live exports (Part A).

After this evidence, the Court rescinded an interim interdict granted to the NSPCA and ordered them to pay the legal costs. The dispute about heat stress was left for the second part of NSPCA’s litigation (Part B).

Ally said: “This appears to be a delaying tactic for Part B. 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, SA Middle East trade relations, and the livelihoods of farmers and businesses participating in live exports.

“An additional shipment was forfeited due to NSPCA’s litigation between June and August last year robbing farmers and several industry participants of trade to the value of R150 million.

“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,” said Mr. Ally.

In the past 10 months, NSPCA has lost several cases at both High and Magistrate courts, facing cost orders against it at the expense of public donations.  In March last year, NSPCA filed incorrect court papers at the Makanda High Court resulting in the case being struck off the court roll.  It was also criticised by an East London Magistrate for seeking powers beyond the Animal Protection Act (APA). Al Mawashi is of the opinion that the NSPCA is being commandeered by radical South African and international animal rights and anti-red meat advocacy groups.

NSPCA indicated last year, even after the court ruling went against it that it will continue to remain opposed to the transport of live animals by sea.

The NSPCA said it conducted the inspection on 18 December 2020 at the Al Mawashi feedlot in Berlin under warrant as this has become standard procedure in attempting to gain access onto the Al Mawashi Feedlot due to consistent problems.

“We do not and never have made appointments to conduct inspections,” said the NSPCA.

The animal welfare organisation said in a statement that it conducted an inspection on 18 December 2020 where maggot infested feed troughs, water troughs, and pens were discovered and a written warning was issued to the feedlot to rectify these and other contraventions.

“This is not an isolated incident at this feedlot, additional criminal charges will be laid. The inspection conducted on 22 December 2020 at the feedlot by Al Mawashi’s veterinarian and the SPCA Inspector was after the warning was issued which afforded Al Mawashi days to rectify the concerns.

“We refute Al Mawashi South Africa’s claim that we are commandeered by animal rights groups and that that we are anti red meat, anti-farming, and anti-government. Our statement of policy has been in effect for decades where we expressly state that we are opposed to all forms of farming and animal husbandry practices which cause suffering or distress to animals, or which unreasonably restrict their movements or their behavioural patterns which are necessary for the well-being of the species concerned.

“Opposition to live export is not an animal rights imperative. Every major animal welfare organisation in the world is opposed to it as well as major veterinary groups including the South African Veterinary Association,” said NSPCA.

NSPCA says Al Mawashi SA requested evidence confirming “our claims in respect of our inspection conducted on 18 December 2020, this has been provided to the company”.

 NSPCA says Al Mawashi accuses them of being “fundamentally anti-humanistic” yet further goes on to claim that “from a human development perspective, South Africa’s live exports responds to many integrated development goals and objectives of the South African government concerned with facilitating greater levels of economic inclusiveness to improve livelihoods, especially of marginalized groups and communities”. 

NSPCA says that according to the Eastern Cape Legislature, of the 72000 sheep initially mustered by Al Mawashi for the most recent export, 50310 sheep were exported and the exporter indicated that 11288 sheep were purchased from BEE and emerging farmers, equating to 15.68% of animals purchased from marginalized groups and communities.

“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 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.”

NSPCA says 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. “We are not opposed to export of animals in carcass form to the Middle East, in fact we have promoted such, and however we do expect it to be done within the confines of legislation. Every living creature has intrinsic value and is a sentient being. Our primary and motivating concern is the prevention of cruelty to all living creatures,” Concluded the NSPCA

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