The information, learnt by DispatchLIVE on Wednesday, has raised questions about the implications for the 60,000 sheep currently being loaded onto the the Kuwait-flagged “sheep ship” Al Shuwaikh in East London.
That process began late on Tuesday afternoon.
NSPCA inspectors monitoring the loading process in the harbour say they have already seen several violations of the Animal Protection Act, including high ammonia levels and sheep panting in the heat on board the vessel.
According to reports on Arab Times Online and Al-Rai daily, PAAAFR stated: “Until further notice the slaughter of red-meat producing female animals, including sheep, cows and camels, is forbidden in order to increase the production of red meat.”
The measure applies to all female animals from one year to four years old, “unless it is proved these animals are unfit for breeding for any reason or are diseased or are suffering from fractures”.
PAAAFR officials warned of penalties if these instructions were ignored and said all slaughterhouses in Kuwait had been informed of the decision.
The Dispatch approached the department of rural development & agrarian reform to ask whether it was aware of the reported decision taken by PAAAFR.
Department spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa said the department had done “everything above board” and had worked within the requirements provided by Kuwait.
“We have issued the export permit on the basis of the requirements provided and on the basis of the information provided to us, ” Lungisa said.
The Kuwaiti government would have told SA that it would not allow certain animals, but the department acted on the information provided, he reiterated.
He said the farmers in the province should now be celebrating because of the economic benefits the deal would bring.
But according to NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson, part of the organisation’s team monitoring the loading in the harbour, there is already grave cause for concern about the sheep.
Confirming that there were “many” ewes on board under the age of four that would be protected under the ban, she said the Al Shuwaikh had not even left port before the sheep began suffering.
“There are exceptionally high ammonia levels for one. We have equipment that measures these levels and the reading is at 37. To give you an idea, the level where it is safe for humans is 25,” she said.
“The sheep are also very hot, and are panting.
“In the middle of their pens there is a ventilator, and all the sheep are huddling around the ventilator to try to get cool.”
She said it was only when they pointed this out that the “fans were turned on higher”.
The department announced on Monday that the Al Shuwaik was given a clean bill of health, and on Tuesday sheep were transported by the truckload from the Berlin feedlot to East London harbour.
Smaragda Louw, of animal rights group Ban Animal Trading, said the reported ban on slaughter of younger ewes, among other animals, emphasised the uncertainty of what would happen to the sheep when they reached the Middle East.
“Are some sheep now not going to be slaughtered under this ban? Or are they going to be re-exported from Kuwait,” she said.
According to a statement from the ship’s owners, Al Mawashi, although the vessel has capacity for 80,000 sheep “as per international stocking density standards”, the company would only load 60,000 sheep during the voyage to the Middle East.
Al Mawashi has opened a new slaughterhouse in Kuwait City which is able to slaughter 900 sheep an hour, or 18,000 a day.