Why what goes on quietly matters more than public slaughter after Ramadan
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia; GRAHAMSTOWN, South Africa––Tonight, August 9, 2021, nearly two billion Muslims worldwide will quietly celebrate Hijri 1443, the Islamic New Year, marking 1,443 years since Muhammed led his disciples from Mecca to Medina in 622 Anno Domini on the Christian calendar.
Unlike the Feast of Atonement [Eid al Adha], the Islamic New Year is not traditionally marked by public displays of slaughter, or public spectacles of any sort.
But it is the date associated with the second highest daily consumption of meat in the Islamic world, mostly at family gatherings.
That makes it an important date indeed to the live transport industry that supplies animals for slaughter to Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations, where consumption of frozen carcasses––and freezer-filled supermarkets, as most of the developed world knows them––have yet to replace slaughtering sheep, goats, and cattle on the day they are eaten.
Muhammed emphasized halal rules
The economic importance of Islamic New Year to the live transport industry also means that the days and weeks leading up to it are the time when the long cultural and political struggle against live transport tends to make the greatest gains, or lose the most momentum.
Muhammed personally warned against wasteful slaughter and emphasized the importance of observing the often compromised rules of halal, meant to reduce the suffering of slaughtered animals.
Yet the well-documented abuse and excess associated with transport and slaughter at the Feast of Atonement tend to be defended in the names of culture, tradition, and even Islam itself.
Abuse and excess associated with Islamic New Year and other routine commerce finds no such defense. And, very likely, if routine commerce supplying meat to the Middle East shifts decisively away from live transport, the practices at the Feast of Atonement will change as well.
Courtrooms & inspection points
The conflicts involving live transport in advance of Islamic New Year 2021, like those in advance of Islamic New Year 2020, were fought more in courtrooms and at Saudi Arabian inspection points than in public view. The toll in animal suffering was no more visible than is the much greater, yet always hidden daily toll at U.S. slaughterhouses.
But the superficial appearance of silence about the live transport issue hardly meant that nothing significant was underway.
Quite the contrary.
Opposition to live transport tends to come from three different directions, amounting to a “triangulated crossfire” whose concerns overlap yet do not wholly coincide.
Animal advocates, by and large, oppose live transport for humanitarian reasons, but many also oppose the existence of the entire business of raising animals for slaughter.
The public health sector opposes live transport as a major vector for the accidental import of diseases, some of which might also infect humans, all of which are potential economic threats to the domestic livestock industries of their respective nations.
The domestic livestock industries of nations that import animals for slaughter tend to align themselves with public health concerns, but are most concerned about economic competition.
Rift Valley fever
The Saudi Arabian public health sector and the National SPCA of South Africa in 2019 each took actions against the live transport industry that proved to be of enduring consequence in 2021.
Explained Guardian correspondent Zeinab Mohammed Salih in August 2020, “Live animals are one of Sudan’s most important exports, bringing in approximately $500 million in 2018, according to the International Trade Centre. Saudi Arabia buys more than 70% of its livestock from Sudan.
“Late last year thousands of sheep died of hunger and thirst when Saudi Arabia blocked trade with Sudan following the country’s announcement of an outbreak of Rift Valley fever,” a mosquito-borne disease which “had been spreading in the eastern and western parts of Sudan among animals and – to a lesser extent – humans.”
The problem escalated in 2020, overshadowed by the global COVID-19 crisis.
58,000 sheep returned to Sudan in 2020
“Saudi Arabia returned 58,000 sheep to Sudan,” Zeinab Mohammed Salih wrote, “after finding out that quarantine procedures in Sudan had been compromised, leaving some animals without vaccination against diseases including Rift Valley fever.”
Admitted Sudanese minister of animal resources Adil Farah, “We have problems in our quarantines in some states, especially in eastern Sudan in Kassala and Gadarif states. Some of the exporters are cheats and might have got inside the quarantines after we vaccinated the animals and replaced some of them.”
Added Zeinab Mohammed Salih, “While the sheep were still on shipboard, waiting to be returned to Sudan, thousands of the animals,” about 3,000 according to reported estimates, “died after drinking salt water from the Red Sea.”
Sudanese vaccination and quarantine procedures apparently did not improve much, despite the catastrophic losses in 2021.
More than 42,000 sheep returned to Sudan so far in 2021
Saudi Arabian inspectors refused entry to at least 42,236 sheep from Sudan during the first eight months of 2021 due to lack of proof of vaccination against Rift Valley Fever in particular, and also due to “the presence of immune bodies for foot-and-mouth disease,” meaning that the animals were still potentially infectious, the Sudan Tribune reported from Paris, France.
Saudi Arabian inspectors for similar reasons also refused entry to 114 Sudanese camels.
National SPCA of South Africa sues against shipments to Kuwait
The National SPCA of South Africa in 2016 won a Constitutional Court of South Africa ruling that it could initiate a private prosecution against livestock exporters.
Found the court, “Animals are worthy of protection not only because of the reflection that this has on human values, but because animals are sentient beings who are capable of suffering and of experiencing pain.”
Armed with that verdict, the National SPCA of South Africa three years later sued Al Mawashi, a subsidiary of the Kuwait Livestock & Transport company, as well as several South African government agencies.
Explained National SPCA of South Africa executive director Marcelle Meredith, “The NSPCAs legal battle against Al Mawashi and the relevant governmental departments was divided into two parts.
“Part A sought an urgent interdict preventing Al Mawashi from exporting any live animals from South Africa by way of a vessel across the equator until part B of the application was heard.
“Part B included our argument as to why the export of live animals by way of ship across the equator is severe abuse to animals and should be banned in its entirety.
“In August 2020,” Meredith continued, “Acting Judge Nceba Dukada, of the Makhanda High Court, ruled in favor of Al Mawashi,” concerning the request for an immediate injunction.
“This resulted in 56,000 sheep being exported by sea to the Middle East.”
The National SPCA of South Africa appealed the Dukada verdict, but the South African Supreme Court of Appeal rejected the appeal in March 2021.
The National SPCA also “requested leave to amend our notice of motion from application proceedings to trial-based proceedings for Part B,” Meredith said, but Judge GNZ Mjali on July 15, 2021 refused the motion.
“The ruling of Judge Mjali speaks only to the format of our application,” Meredith emphasized. “It is not a final ruling on Part B of our application. Once again, the National SPCA of South Africa will be appealing the ruling of our courts.”
Strayed from the script
To that point, the legal conflict followed a pattern of claim, adverse ruling, and appeal seen time and again in in cases involving animal issues around the world.
Rulings interrupting established industries, as well as being few and far between, tend to come from appellate courts with broader authority to interpret legal principals than lower courts, whose rulings normally stay within the narrow lines of precedent.
The South African case strayed from the script just a day after the Mjali verdict when an article appearing to be straightforward news coverage, but extensively denouncing the National SPCA of South Africa, appeared in media all over the country as “sponsored content,” soon amplified by Al Mawashi South Africa on Facebook.
Anonymous “sponsored content”
The “sponsored content,” conspicuously published without acknowledgement of who sponsored it, mentioned that Mjali “criticized certain allegations in the NSPCA’s founding affidavit as vexatious, scandalous, irrelevant and designed to embarrass Al Mawashi.”
The “sponsored content” continued to paraphrase Ilyaas Ally, managing director of Al Mawashi South Africa, as alleging that the “NSPCA maliciously timed its court action with hopes to disrupt the company’s shipment that was important for the upcoming religious festival and food security in the Middle East.”
Since the National SPCA of South Africa holds in the still pending case that live transport of animals from South Africa to Kuwait by sea is inherently inhumane, of course the goal is to “disrupt the company’s shipment,” whether now or later, and regardless of whether the initial request for a preliminary injunction was granted.
Is Al Mawashi South Africa worried?
The “sponsored content” concluded that “systemic leadership failures at the NSPCA, with emphasis on the witch hunt against farmers and live exporters, is adversely affecting support to SPCA branches and creating a further dis-enabling environment. The squandered donations to ban live exports,” the “sponsored content” claimed, “should rather be used to support the much-needed work of SPCA branches in the country.”
The anonymity of the “sponsored content” hints that Al Mawashi South Africa, despite having won every round in court so far, is more than just a little worried about the eventual outcome of the case.
The “sponsored content” appeared soon after a barrage of Al Mawashi South Africa social media postings defending the company’s live shipping practices.