Concern over livestock amid Suez Canal delays

There are concerns over the welfare of animals stuck on livestock carriers as the Suez Canal remains blocked.

There is a backlog of hundreds of ships waiting to pass through the busy shipping channel after the vessel Ever Given became stuck last week.

Among those are at least 20 livestock carriers, according to The Guardian, with many concerned if the Ever Given is not freed soon thousands of animals could be killed.

"It’s unforeseen circumstances like this that make live export so risky," Debra Ashton, chief executive of SAFE NZ, said on Monday.

"Disease, bad weather, and shipping delays can all leave animals stranded at sea."

More than 2000 cattle were recently ordered to be slaughtered by Spanish authorities after spending months at sea on livestock carriers. 

In one case 895 cattle were killed after being refused entry to a number of countries due to fears they had bovine bluetongue virus.

While 1600 animals on a different ship were slaughtered after being stuck at sea since December. In both cases authorities ruled the animals were both unfit for further travel or importation into the European Union due to the state they were in when they returned to Spain. 

"New Zealand had its own live export crisis last year, when the Gulf Livestock 1 sunk off the coast of China," said Ashton. 

"It won’t be the last crisis."

Gerit Weidinger, EU coordinator for Animals International, told The Guardian she feared animals of ships delayed due to the stricken Ever Given could run out of and food and water if the Ever Given is not freed soon.

"Getting stuck on board means there is a risk [for the animals] of starvation, dehydration, injuries, waste buildup so they can't lie down, and nor can the crew get rid of dead animal bodies in the [Suez] canal," she told The Guardian.

"It’s basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved."