Durban - Triple A Beef, one of the largest feedlots and abattoirs in KwaZulu-Natal, found itself in court on Wednesday defending an application to have it closed down.

The application has been brought by the Gonawakhe Informal Settlement Residents’ Association, neighbouring property to the Caine Brothers (Pty) Ltd, the owners of Triple A Beef.

It claims that the presence of the feedlot in Cramond is compromising the health and well-being of the community and poses an environmental and health risk to residents.

According to papers before the Pietermaritzburg High Court, the association, represented by Brightman Mkhize, had applied to the court to obtain full details of the authorised permits by which Triple A Beef operates.

These permits include copies of environmental authorisation issued to Caine Brothers by the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, its environmental assessment reports and its compliance reports issued by the Department of Health.

They are also seeking an interdict against Triple A Beef, to stop it from operating as a feedlot and abattoir.

Triple A Beef supplies meat to businesses and supermarkets all over KZN. The average value of meat sold monthly is about R80 million excluding VAT, with a mass of three million kilograms.

In his affidavit, Mkhize claims that Triple A Beef, which has between 24 000-27 000 cattle on its property, is also a mass generator of cattle manure, which is sold to sugar farmers.

“The mass generation of this manure ensures the generation of flies, other insects and smells which are undesirable in an urban environment. I have also come to learn that the business generates animal carcasses, blood and other animal by-products which have an oppressive odour,” he said.

Mkhize said that other smells emanated from the cattle pens, waste water ponds and slurry dams. Slurry dams hold cow dung which is liquefied and pumped back into the Triple A Beef pastures.

Mkhize said the association represents residents in the informal settlement which is situated just 100m away from the Triple A Beef property.

“These men, women, children and the elderly are exposed to serious health hazards in view of Triple A Beef’s business practices,” he said. He explained that the closest hospital was 20km away.

Mkhize said a property development was in the works last year to build a hospital, petrol station and other businesses in the area to serve the informal community.

However, the Caine Brothers had opposed the proposal citing that their business generated a significant health hazard and as a result the proposed development was incompatible with their business.

Mkhize said that in terms of a report by Afzelia Environmental Consultants, animal feedlots posed serious risks because some lots contaminate water supplies with pathogens and chemicals as well as pollute the air causing respiratory problems. Other symptoms could include headaches, nausea and breathing problems as a result of the high hydrogen sulphide emissions from cattle manure.

“Various residents have experienced such symptoms,” Mkhize said, adding that the recommended buffer to residential areas for large feedlots is 1 500m.

In response to the application, legal representative for the Caine Brothers, Anthony Irons, said that Triple A Beef was completely legal and compliant and had all the necessary permits and authorities enabling it to function as the largest feedlot in KwaZulu-Natal and an abattoir. “The feedlot has been operating since 1980 and the abattoir since 2000. It has strategic national importance,” Irons said.

In a draft affidavit opposing the application, Irons said that the association comprised unlawful occupiers who were currently in the midst of an eviction application brought by the owner of the farm on which their shacks were built.

They were therefore not entitled to bring the application.

Irons also submitted that the residents had not complied with the correct procedure for obtaining access to the business’s documents.

He explained that the business employed 616 people and a number of their employees were residents in the informal settlement.

“In the view of our client, those bringing the application are acting recklessly. The authority of those bringing it is defective and in any event the unlawful occupiers do not have the rights of neighbours in bringing such a case. It will be contended that this is a politically-motivated application, with an ulterior motive. It is therefore being strenuously defended,” Irons said.

The case has been adjourned.

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