Covid shipping chaos causes misery and death for thousands of livestock
‘We don’t look at animal welfare. It makes no difference if it’s 10,000 containers or 10,000 animals’: maritime official
In late December, about 1,800 bulls left Spain for Turkey aboard a ship called the Elbeik. The trip was supposed to take about 11 days, then the cattle were to be sold, mostly to halaal slaughterhouses, where they’d be killed with minimal suffering, as required by religious law.
At least it would have been swift. For the next three months, as the pandemic began to wreak havoc on global shipping, the vessel failed to unload its cargo, and the animals began to starve, according to an investigation by the Spanish government. Nearly 10% of the bulls died, their corpses thrown overboard or left to fester in the pens among the living. When the Elbeik returned to Spain, authorities ruled its remaining 1,600 animals were too sick to sell and had to be put down.
The Elbeik has become Exhibit A in the mounting case to ban the controversial, $18bn (R259bn) cross-border trade in live animals. The pandemic has worsened conditions for the roughly two billion cows, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens that are exported each year, and epidemiologists have joined the calls for reform. Animals have been stuck in transit far longer than expected and safety inspections have been dramatically curtailed. With new sensitivity to risks that diseased animals can pose to humans, a growing number of countries are limiting or phasing out the practice altogether...