Drowning of 15,000 sheep in Sudan highlights abuse of cattle ships

They died slowly from drowning. The ship with 15,000 sheep took hours to sink in the port of the Sudanese city of Sawakin on Sunday. Probably due to congestion: Al Badri 1 was only designed for nine thousand sheep.

Al Badri 1, built in 1973, was originally a cargo ship. A number of decks were added to transport animals on it. Because the sheep were locked inside different compartments of the ship, they were difficult to rescue despite the slow sight. Pictures show how men with lifeboats sail to the capsized ship to bring groups of sheep to safety. Seven hundred sheep were thus taken from the ship, but they were in poor condition.

Rescued sheep from the sunken ship Al Badri 1.
Photo AFP

The destination of the drowned sheep was Saudi Arabia on the other side of the Red Sea. This is a common route: in 2017, only one country imported more live animals than Saudi Arabia, and Sudan is the world’s largest exporter of sheep with an estimated 3.7 million animals in 2017.

When animals are transported by sea, there are many at the same time, and if things go wrong, many animals die immediately. Three years ago, for example, about fifteen thousand sheep drowned near the Romanian port city of Constanta.

The transport of 70,000 sacrificial sheep from Romania to Kuwait previously led to protests as the animals in the Persian Gulf were exposed to temperatures of up to 46 degrees. During such transports, animals on board regularly die, after which crew members throw the remains overboard. Tourists have already seen sheep carcasses washed ashore in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

And last year, there was the case of the ship ElBeik, which operated unplanned for three months with eighteen hundred cows in the Mediterranean because buyers feared that the animals had bluetongue. After the ship finally returned to Spain, the animals were in such bad shape that they had to be killed. That same year, the nine hundred cows on Karim Allah had to be killed after wandering around for sixty days after the animals were rejected for fear of bluetongue in Turkey and Libya, among others.

Halal slaughter

From research by The Guardian shows that the transport of live animals has quadrupled in the last fifty years due to an increasing demand for meat. Islamic countries in particular have a preference for live animals: in this way, they can ensure that the animals are slaughtered halal.

Tourists saw sheep carcasses washed ashore in Sharm el-Sheikh

On the list of largest exporters of live animals – both at sea and on land – Sudan is among the western countries; The Netherlands is at the top with 350 million chickens and 12 million pigs in 2017. In 2019, 1.8 billion chickens, pigs, sheep, goats and cows were transported worldwide, three quarters of which came from the EU. The value of livestock transport is estimated at 19 billion euros.

Meanwhile, only a few measures are taken against animal diseases during transport. For example, in 2020, British Minister George Eustice (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced that England and Wales would ban the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter. An exception only applies to chickens. The new rules are still being discussed with stakeholders before they enter into force.

Also read: Concern about pigs due to the risk of ‘heat stress’

The EU introduced relatively strict animal welfare requirements in 2005. But then MEP Jørn Dohrmann from Denmark noted in a report from 2018 that many animals are treated harshly, transported in unsuitable vehicles, packed too tightly, exposed to high temperatures and given too little food and water .

The European Commission has announced new legislation for next year. MEP Anja Hazekamp (Party for Animals) is hoping for stricter rules or even an export ban on live animals to countries outside the EU. But according to her, it would already make a difference if existing rules are adhered to.

“Often animals are transported incorrectly, for example sheep with drinking water supply that is only suitable for pigs. And I myself have witnessed serious welfare violations, such as starving and abusing animals. But the inspection falls short. ”

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