‘Kuwaiti death ship’ transporting 19,000 cows to Iraq stinks up Cape Town

Animal rights activists protest following the docking of the livestock carrier ship Al Kuwait in Cape Town
Animal rights activists protest following the docking of the livestock carrier ship Al Kuwait in Cape Town - ESA ALEXANDER/REUTERS

An overwhelmingly foul smell enveloping Cape Town has been traced to a cargo ship carrying 19,000 cattle in “horrific conditions”.

The South African tourist hub woke up to the thick smell of manure and animal waste on Monday morning as it spread across much of the city centre.

Locals at first suspected the source of the odour was the sewage system or a fish factory.

Health officials dispatched to find the source traced the stench to the 620ft livestock carrier the Al Kuwait, which had docked the previous evening after sailing for more than two weeks from Brazil.

The vessel, which is heading onward to Iraq, was boarded by health inspectors and a vet, according to the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).

The group said the smell was caused by a build-up of faeces and ammonia. Three animals were found dead and another five had to be put down.

“The stench on board is unimaginable, yet the animals face this every single day,” the group said.

Cape Town harbour
Cape Town harbour, where the 620ft livestock carrier docked on Sunday evening after sailing for more than two weeks from Brazil - Klaas Slot/iStockphoto

The NSPCA, which campaigns against the transport of live animals, dubbed the vessel a “Kuwaiti death ship”.

“The faeces that the cattle were standing is already basically up to the top of their hooves in some pens,” Grace le Grange, a senior inspector who boarded the vessel, told Reuters.

“In general the cattle themselves were not in a physically bad condition in terms of weight-wise, but our concern is what happens when they get back onto the ocean,” she said.

Zahid Badroodien, the city official in charge of water and sanitation, confirmed that the source of the “sewage smell blanketing parts of the city” was the cattle ship.

A City of Cape Town statement condemned “the horrific conditions which have been uncovered aboard the Al Kuwait ship”.

Animal welfare officials said they had been unable to wash the animals, or muck out their containers into the harbour because of the risk of contaminating the water.

The ship was expected to set sail later on Tuesday after loading more animal feed.

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