ANIMAL welfare campaigners expressed outrage yesterday that nearly 70,000 sheep had been left to die on a blazing Panamanian cargo ship en route from Australia to the Middle East. The vessel, the 20,884-ton Uniceb, which set sail from Fremantle in Western Australia on August 23, bound for Aqaba in Jordan, was reported to be adrift in the Indian Ocean 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles after being abandoned by its crew.
Hugh Worth, the Western Australian president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the disaster added weight to the organisation's campaign to stop live sheep exports. "It is another classic example of why the trade should be abandoned," he said. "These sheep have been left to a horrific and cruel death."
All but one of the 55 Uniceb crew were reported to have been rescued by another cargo vessel, the Mineral Century, on Monday after a fire which started in the engine room on Thursday spread to their quarters. Mark Leech, a spokesman for LLP Ltd in Colchester, Essex, which collates shipping accident reports for Lloyd's List, said: "We understand that the chief engineer fell overboard during the evacuation and has been listed as missing. A tug from Djibouti and another livestock transport vessel in the area are heading for the Uniceb."
There was no immediate news of the fate of the 67,488 sheep which are said to have been housed on the ship's eight cargo decks. The vessel has been carrying sheep from Australia to the Middle East for the past 14 years.
Martin Potter, head of the farm animal division of the RSPCA in Britain, said: "This is a disgraceful trade which all reasonable people should oppose. I understand that vets are generally not present on board these ships."
For the past 15 years, Australia has shipped about five million sheep annually to destinations in the Middle East, including Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, according to the RSPCA.
Last year the South African Government turned down a request by domestic meat traders to be allowed to import Australian sheep because of the high number of animals which die during the three-week voyage to the Middle East. Rudolph Bigalke, a former deputy director-general at the South African Department of Agriculture who led a fact-finding mission to Australia, said: "We found that about 100,000 sheep die every year because they refuse to feed or succumb to bacterial infection under the stress of the journeys."
Large numbers of sheep have died in previous accidents on their way from both Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East, according to the RSPCA. In 1980, 12,000 were drowned when the Star of Shaddia sank in the Red Sea. In a second accident in the same year, 40,605 sheep died in a fire on board the Farid Fares. In 1990, about 10,000 sheep on board the Cormo Express died from lack of proper ventilation.
Joyce D'Silva, director of Compassion in World Farming, which led last year's protests in Britain against calf exports to Europe, said: "This is another appalling incident in a trade that should have stopped long ago. It shows long-distance transport of livestock cannot be properly policed and is inherently cruel."
The Uniceb is owned by a Panamanian company, Mazamet Shipping, and managed by Accord Shipping in Bombay.
Although the sheep could be killed and shipped in carcass form, there is a big demand in the Middle East for live animals which can be slaughtered locally in accordance with Muslim ritual.
PERTH, Australia -- Animal welfare activists called Thursday for an immediate ban on live sheep exports from Australia after 67,000 sheep were left to die on a blazing ship off the east coast of Africa. The 14,990-ton Uniceb, a Panamanian-registered vessel bound for Jordan from Western Australia, caught fire off Tanzania earlier this week. Fifty-four crew were rescued by a passing freighter, but the stricken vessel's engineer was lost overboard. No crew remained on board. A tug is on its way to salvage the ship, which is adrift, Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported Thursday. Other unconfirmed reports said the ship might have sunk.
Australia regularly exports live sheep to the Middle East, where the animals are slaughtered according to Islamic religious requirements. ''I was horrified by the thought of 67,000 sheep being burned to death or perhaps dying from smoke or possibly dying of thirst,'' said animal rights activist Peter Singer.
Hugh Wirth, president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, condemned the live sheep exports as cruel, saying up to 8 percent of the animals die in transit even during successful voyages. Although the Australian government admits there are problems with live exports, it said the exports are worth $390 million a year and will continue.
The search, by a salvage tug, an empty livestock carrier and at one stage a U.S. Air Force aircraft, covered a 200-square-nautical-mile area. The Panamanian-flagged, Swiss-owned Uniceb was traveling from Fremantle, Western Australia, to the Jordanian port of Aqaba when fire broke out in the engine room a week ago. The ship was about 250 miles east of the Seychelles off the east African coast. The crew abandoned the Uniceb, leaving 67,000 live sheep on the blazing vessel.
British Government plans to incinerate mad cow carcasses in power stations today provoked outrage at the European Parliament. Environment committee chairman Ken Collins fired off protest letters to the European Commission over alleged breaches of EU law on air pollution.
In a letter to environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, Mr Collins (Labour, Strathclyde East) writes of 'the potentially catastrophic environmental consequences of the British Government's plans to dispose of animal carcasses in power stations.' 'Animals which have been rendered down into meat and bone meal should be burnt in high temperature incinerators which have the necessary safeguards to ensure that noxious fumes and germs do not escape.
'However, I have been informed that the UK has enacted emergency powers which circumvent legislation on the safe disposal of potentially infected meat and bone meal and allow it to be disposed of in power stations instead.
'I am concerned that this action may contravene Community directives in place to limit air pollution from large combustion plants and rules governing the disposal of hazardous waste. I hope therefore that your services will take this up with the British Government as a matter of urgency to ensure that EU environmental standards are not breached.'
Anthrax continues to be a problem in southern India. We have found several endemic foci of animal anthrax and a concomitant increase in human anthrax cases in our region. Although there are reports of human anthrax from other parts of India, we believe there is a lot of under-reporting because there is a paucity of adequate microbiological facilities for the diagnosis of anthrax.
Vellore, which is one of the towns in North Arcot Ambedkar (NAA) district in southern India, is known to be endemic for anthrax. An increase in the number of cases of anthrax has been documented in both animals and human beings. The increase in human cases after 1990 may be due to increased awareness of this illness among clinicians. A health-information networking system in our district helps to stress the importance of diagnosis and treatment of this disease. The first recorded case of human anthrax in this region was a patient with anthrax meningoencephalitis (AME) in 1977. Since then, at our institution up to May, 1996, we have seen 49 cases, including an outbreak of AME in 1990, all microbiologically proven.
The outbreak occurred in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, in a group of villagers who were involved in handling the skin and meat of infected sheep. Since then we have seen two outbreaks among family members; father and son, and a brother and sister. Most of the patients were from NAA or nearby districts of Tamil Nadu. In this region, human anthrax has occurred in the vicinity of animal anthrax. Among the 49 cases there were nine from Vellore town.
Most of the cases (31/49) were labourers and 32/49 (65 3%) gave a history of handling animals or animal meat or hide. The other 17 denied history of contact with animals, and in seven of these patients cutaneous lesions were seen close to the eye, suggesting an insect bite, although most worked in the fields and could have acquired the infection by cleaning their faces after handling infected animals, animal products, or soil contaminated with Bacillus anthracis spores. No epidemic has been reported among the numerous tannery workers or in slaughter house pens in this area.
AME was seen in 29 patients; 17 had cutaneous anthrax; and three had septicaemia. The reason there were so many cases of AME could be due to the majority of cutaneous cases being treated by general practitioners. All cases of AME were treated with high doses of intravenous penicillin 2 million U every 2 hours (to 24 million U over 24 hours). Patients with cutaneous anthrax received intravenous penicillin 2 million U 4-hourly for 5 days followed by intramuscular procaine penicillin 800 000 U twice daily for 8 days. All patients with cutaneous manifestations responded to treatment; there were two survivors among AME cases. Of the three patients with septicaemia, one survived. Development of non-encapsulated avirulent animal vaccine is an important contribution to the control and prevention of anthrax. Routine immunisation of domestic animals with a single inoculation of live Sterne vaccine is presumed to provide protective immunity for about a year, but ideally a booster dose should be given every 6 months. Mass immunisation of the animal population has not been practiced by farmers in our region owing to the ungrounded fear of the vaccine contributing towards disease. Attempts are being made to legislate meat handling, although it is difficult to encourage villagers to discard the meat of dead animals. In southern India, continuous surveillance, mass education, and animal vaccination efforts must be undertaken to control human and animal anthrax.