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Death and Cruelty on the High Seas: Livestock shipping strikes again; 15100 sheep drown in the Red Sea

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Criticism of livestock shipping is not just about animals needlessly drowning, whether because the ship capsizes or because of deadly conditions onboard. It’s also about the suffering of the animals that survive the trip.

GREG MILLER: Decade after decade, vessel casualties and reports of animal cruelty keep piling up. Yet another major accident occurred this month: On June 11, the livestock carrier Al Badri 1 sank after leaving its berth in Suakin, Sudan, on the Red Sea, with 15,800 sheep onboard. All crew were saved but 15,100 sheep drowned. The Tanzanian-flagged vessel was bound for Saudi Arabia. It listed and sank after reportedly being overloaded. The Al Badri 1 was built 49 years ago as a roll-on, roll-off cargo vessel. It was later converted into a livestock carrier.

The latest tragedy echoes the highly publicized “death ship” incident in November 2019: The livestock carrier Queen Hind capsized in the Black Sea, soon after it left Romania en route to Saudi Arabia. Of the 14,600 sheep initially believed to be aboard, only 180 survived. Video and images of the accident brought widespread attention to the ocean livestock trade.

The Palau-flagged Queen Hind was built in 1980 as a car carrier and converted into a livestock carrier. During salvage operations, divers discovered that additional decks were installed to increase animal capacity that were not in the vessel plans. The extra decks were jammed with dead sheep; the total number of animals that drowned is believed to be much higher than first thought…

Ships are more likely to capsize if they’re older, converted, carry destabilizing loads of animals, and registered in flag states with weaker safety records. According to Lloyd’s List, which sees an urgent need for stricter regulation, there have been seven total losses of livestock carriers in the past decade, leading to the deaths of 50,000 animals and 170 seafarers…

Fleet data provided to American Shipper by U.K.-based VesselsValue shows 143 livestock carriers currently in operation. Just 21% of the total, or 30 ships, are purpose-built livestock carriers. The remaining 79% are conversions.

VesselsValue data shows that the fleet has an average age of 28 years. Ten percent are 10 years or younger, 5% are 10-20 years old, 15% 20-30 years old and 16% 30-40 years old. The majority of livestock carriers on the water today — 54% — are 40 years or older…

Criticism of livestock shipping is not just about animals needlessly dying before they can be eaten, whether because the ship capsizes or because of deadly conditions onboard. It’s also about the suffering of the animals that survive the trip. In the EU, a major exporter of livestock, the law (which critics say is ineffectual) states that “all animals shall be transported in conditions guaranteed not to cause them injury or unnecessary suffering”…

In 2018, a whistleblower provided video to activists revealing inhumane conditions aboard the livestock carrier Awassi Express. During a voyage from Australia to the Middle East in 2017, 2,400 sheep died of heat stress. Following public outcry over an Australian “60 Minutes” report on sheep being “cooked alive,” the Australian government instituted new regulations for the trade. SOURCE…

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