Animal rights activists are trying to stop over 60 000 goats, sheep and cows being shipped to a Kuwaiti abattoir, saying many of them would die en route.
An inspection of the Al Shuweikh vessel revealed miserable and crammed conditions, the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) said.
“Disease, overcrowding, pneumonia, motion sickness, physical trauma and injuries, and stress creates the perfect environment for excruciating suffering and many animals will die in transit,” it warned.
The Kuwaiti-flagged vessel is docked in the southeastern port of East London.
The animals will be packed like sardines and “not be able to lie down or rest”, NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson told AFP.
An online petition against the shipment has gathered 77 000 signatures so far.
The NSPCA also conducted two inspections at a farm where the sheep are being raised which it said revealed abysmal conditions.
“The sheep were fighting for food, there was no shelter, including in the hospital pens, some animals looked underfed with ocular and nasal discharge. Some were blind, limping and bruised all over their bodies,” Wilson said.
Authorities in the Eastern Cape said they were not aware that a ship was due to leave for Kuwait shortly carrying live animals.
However, they added that all vessels had to meet “strict requirements” for animal welfare, agrarian reform ministry spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa said.
According to the NSPCA, the ship was supposed to have left in mid-September but could not confirm if it had departed.
This is the first time the Al Shuweikh is attempting to export live animals from South Africa. Previously for a decade, it had imported animals from Australia.