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Johannesburg - The National Council of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) on Wednesday said it is going to lay charges of animal abuse against the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.  

The body said the move to initiate a lawsuit comes as Al-Shuwaikh, the ship which was docked in East London, was given a clean bill of health to export thousands of sheep to Kuwait.

“The NSPCA provided a report to the government on 23 September 2019, outlining the welfare concerns and foreseeable contraventions of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962,” said Meg Wilson spokesperson of the NSPCA.

She said as many as 30 000 animals were affected. 

However, the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa said the number of sheep loaded were twice as many. Lungisa said at least 61 000 sheep were loaded onto the ship. 

“The ammonia levels, on board the vessel, are already higher than levels that are considered safe – this was measured by our inspectors yesterday afternoon – the sheep had not even been on board for 24 hours,” said Wilson.

She also said that this would only get worse as time goes on with the build-up of excrement bearing in mind that the ship will not be cleaned until the animals have disembarked. 

“On closer investigation of these health certificates, it was noted that they are only signed just before the ship departs and that there are no health restrictions," said Wilson.

"This means that as long as the sheep come from a ‘Foot and Mouth Disease free area’, among other diseases, the importing country would accept the animals regardless of their health.”

Asked to comment on the NSPCA imminent legal action, Lungisa insisted the department had done everything by the book. 

“We have provided enough space to engage with the NSPCA. We believe that their work is very important and will adhere to all processes to follow. The court of law will provide further direction but we have done everything above board.” 

African News Agency  (ANA)