February 22, 2024

Alarming Conditions on Al Kuwait Vessel Prompt Urgent Calls for Reform

Copyright © africanews Nardus Engelbrecht/Nardus Engelbrecht

On 19 February 2024, Cape Town Harbour witnessed the docking of the Al Kuwait, a Kuwaiti-flagged livestock vessel carrying 19,000 cattle. This event has sparked significant concern over animal welfare and environmental health issues due to the distressing conditions observed onboard and the pervasive foul smell that permeated parts of Cape Town, including Green Point, the Waterfront, Woodstock, and Observatory.

Veterinary Intervention Highlights Severe Animal Welfare Issues at Sea

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), along with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, conducted a thorough inspection of the ship, revealing alarming conditions. The interior scenes were described as abhorrent, with animals forced to lie in their own excrement due to an extreme build-up of faeces and urine. The inspection also uncovered compromised animals, including those that were diseased and injured, leading to the humane euthanisation of eight cows and the discovery of others that had already perished.


Dr Bryce Marock, an NSPCA Veterinary Consultant, provided veterinary treatment for the affected animals. This incident underscores the grim reality of live animal export by sea, highlighting the severe suffering and high mortality rates animals endure during such voyages. The NSPCA has criticized this method as gruesome and outdated, calling for urgent legislative reform and global awareness to end this cruelty.

The organization expressed gratitude towards the South African government for allowing the ship to dock to load essential feed for the cattle, emphasizing the dire consequences of depriving the animals of sustenance during their journey. However, the NSPCA firmly believes that no country can ensure adequate animal welfare standards on livestock vessels and is advocating for a complete ban on live animal exports by sea.

Western Cape Authorities Step Up Following Outcry Over Livestock Export Practices

In light of these distressing findings, local authorities are taking steps to address the underlying issues and prevent future incidents. The Western Cape’s response, led by Western Cape Minister of Agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer, illustrates a proactive approach towards enhancing animal welfare and regulatory oversight in maritime livestock transport.

Expressing his concern about the conditions of cattle aboard the ship and the possible remedy to avoid similar occurrences in the future, Dr Meyer, said that the draft Western Cape Powers Bill, underpinned by the Growth for Jobs strategy is focused on trade and exports.

Minister Meyer commented, “The Western Cape Powers Bill calls for the Western Cape Government to get greater control over the management of the port and trade. Should the Western Cape Powers Bill be approved, it will empower the Western Cape Government to intervene in similar situations and safeguard animal and public health, defend animal welfare and advance biosecurity”.

“It is for this reason that I have made submissions to the Ad hoc Committee on the Powers Bill in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament for the inclusion of veterinary services in the Bill “, added the Minister.

“We envisage that the framework created by the Powers Bill will provide legal and regulatory instruments to ensure free, safe, healthy trade and export relations. In the interim, we will continue to support the relevant authorities in addressing concerns related to veterinary care, public health, and biosecurity”, concluded the Minister.