Leaders of the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) and the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) recently indicated that they were now in support of livestock exports from South Africa by sea, provided that they were conducted within animal welfare guidelines.
Chairperson of South Africa’s Livestock Welfare Coordinating Committee (LWCC), Prof Gareth Bath, expressed surprise at the RMIF’s and RPO’s (both of which are members of the LWCC) changed stance because the two organisations had previously supported the LWCC’s opposition to such exports.
The LWCC’s position statement cited allegations of wide-ranging animal welfare abuses and concerns related to the shipboard livestock export process both from South Africa and other parts of the world.
Earlier this year, RPO chairperson, Koos van der Ryst, confirmed to Farmer’s Weekly that the organisation supported the LWCC’s opposition to these exports.
In October 2019, the RPO’s CEO, Gerhard Schutte, said: “The RPO is already on record for stating that we believe that it’s much better to move meat than livestock for slaughtering purposes. We know that in this case [of the planned live sheep exports from the Eastern Cape to Kuwait] there are religious and traditional slaughter requirements. Perhaps South Africa can look at ways of meeting these slaughter requirements locally and then exporting the meat.”
However, in June this year, the RMIF, of which the RPO is a member, issued a statement indicating that the forum was opposed to a current interim blanket ban on livestock exports by sea.
The interim ban was secured by the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA). In a matter due to be heard by the Grahamstown High Court on 16 July, the NSPCA said it was hoping to secure a permanent legal ban on these exports.
Following this, the RPO’s second vice-chairperson, Willie Clack, told Farmer’s Weekly that while the local slaughtering of livestock and the exporting of their carcasses “would be first prize”, in the absence of this, live exports needed to be supported in line with specific rules.
“As rules did not exist in South Africa regarding the transportation of animals by sea, the initial point of view given the void, was not to support the exports until scientific proof was provided to ensure the welfare of the animals. Internationally, the concept of [livestock] transportation by sea is controversial. Therefore, the OIE developed guidelines for [this]. The South African government is a signatory to the OIE guidelines […]. The fact that the RPO is a member of the LWCC does not mean that [the RPO] is not autonomous and [unable] to hold its [own] point of view,” Clack said.