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Court to hear arguments on preventing export of live animals

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The Eastern Cape High Court is set to hear arguments in an interdict to prevent around 70,000 sheep from being exported live to the Middle East

On Thursday, 6 August, the Eastern Cape High Court is set to hear arguments around an interdict to prevent around 70,000 sheep from being exported live to Kuwait. Animal Law Reform South Africa, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, is seeking to intervene in the case as a friend of the court. We argue that exporting live animals for slaughter is not only cruel and unnecessary, but poses serious risks to human health and affects our environmental and other constitutional rights.

In June this year, the NSPCA approached the High Court in Makhanda to prevent a ship from carrying about 70,000 sheep to the Middle East. Concerned about the terrible conditions these animals may be kept in during such long and senseless journeys, particularly during the torturous heat of the summer months in the Gulf, the NSPCA urgently applied for an interdict against the importing and exporting companies. They were granted an interim interdict to prevent the ship Al Messilah from leaving South Africa until the case could be heard, and also later successfully defended an application by the companies to have the interim interdict reconsidered.

The hearing for the final interim interdict will take place virtually on Thursday, 6 August. Animal Law Reform South Africa (ALRSA), represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), is seeking to intervene in the matter as a friend of the court. This case raises important issues not only in relation to animal welfare but also to administrative law, environmental law, international and customary law and various constitutional rights. Given our unique knowledge and expertise in these areas, we hope to assist the court with these issues.

“It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to transport animals in this way,” says Sheena Swemmer from CALS. “Exporting live animals for slaughter is not the same as exporting meat. Not only can they suffer pointlessly, they can become sick and die. This has impacts on people down the line.”

“We need strong regulations in place around animal welfare, not only for the animals’ sake, but for people too,” agrees Basetsana Koitsioe of CALS. “In places where animals are kept in unhealthy conditions, there is a strong chance of developing diseases like listeriosis that also affect humans.”

“Animals are protected from cruelty under our law,” says Prof David Bilchitz, a Director of ALRSA and Professor of Law at the University of Johannesburg. “The Constitutional Court has recognised animals have intrinsic value, and allowing such a cruel trade directly contradicts this important legal development and thus runs counter to our values as a country. In allowing live export to proceed, government has also failed in its duties to act lawfully through ensuring compliance with the animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Protection Act.”

“The live export of animals by sea is not only extremely cruel to the animals themselves, it has implications for our environment and human rights. While there is huge public opposition to the trade within the country, at an international level, the practice implicates South Africa’s reputation. Due in part to such opposition and recognition, other countries in the world, such as New Zealand and Australia have developed clear policy and a strict legal and regulatory framework on these issues ” says Amy P. Wilson of ALRSA.

Read more in our court papers here.

The matter is set to be heard virtually by the Eastern Cape High Court on 6 August 2020.

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Animal Law Reform South Africa (ALRSA) is a non-profit organisation that envisages a society whose laws, courts and enforcement agencies advance the protection and well-being of both humans and non-human animals. Utilising the law and related avenues, ALRSA works on intersectional matters to achieve justice for all who require it. Through its main pillars it aims to achieve incremental change for vulnerable beings and ensure that their interests are accounted for in the legal system. Find out more about us at or follow @AnimalLawReform.

About CALS

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a public interest law organisation based at the Wits University School of Law. Founded in 1978 by Professor John Dugard, CALS continues to use a combination of research, advocacy and litigation to advance human rights and social justice in South Africa. Read more about our work at or follow @CALS_ZA.