Call to stop import of animals for slaughter
Manama, November 3, 2009
An international animal rights organisation has called on Bahrain to stop the import of live animals for slaughter.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the largest alliance of animal welfare organisations, recommends that livestock trade be banned and replaced with chilled and frozen meat imports to combat any meat shortages.
It claims this move would also bring economic and environmental benefits because imports of live sheep and cattle are more expensive than importing chilled or frozen meat and are an environmental burden to the country.
Livestock imports are heavily subsidised in Bahrain, noted WSPA.
Sheep and cattle are imported by the Bahrain Livestock Company (BLC), the country's only licensed slaughterhouse, under a subsidy agreement with the government.
WSPA claims the import of livestock results in poor animal welfare and has a negative impact on the local economy, the environment and the quality of meat.
Each year more than 700,000 sheep and cattle are imported into Bahrain from as far away as Australia, added the WSPA.
WSPA claims the animals suffer horrific journeys that can take as long as 30 days only to be slaughtered shortly after arrival.
'Not only does the livestock trade cause unnecessary suffering, it also reduces the quality of the meat,' said WSPA farm animal welfare manager Sofia Parente. 'Meat experts have described how chronic heat exhaustion and dehydration suffered on the journey can cause the meat to become dark, firm and dry.'
WSPA pointed out that more than BD19 million, which is more than 55 per cent of the total budget for food subsidies, was used to subsidise imports of sheep and cattle.
In addition, the BLC was said to have received BD800,000 in compensation from the government, to cover the difference between world meat prices and subsidised prices in Bahrain.
In comparison, frozen and chilled meat is penalised with a five per cent tariff.
'Eliminating these trade distorting measures would benefit the animals, but it would also boost competition and go a long way in addressing meat shortages' said Parente.
According to WSPA, frozen meat imports would also make sense for a country with limited space and natural resources.
Feedlots and slaughterhouses generate vast quantities of waste and noise, and produce bad smells, which affect the population and the environment, it added.
Recently, a group of residents filed a complaint against the BLC and three other companies on this matter.
The Cabinet is discussing the introduction of a new livestock import company to address shortages of sheep and cattle.
'Given the economic, social and environmental consequences of importing live animals, WSPA argues this is not the best decision,' said Parente. 'We would be delighted to discuss the alternative with the Cabinet.'
Bahrain Livestock Company chairman Ebrahim Zainal, refuted WSPA's claims, saying the animals were treated well and provided good quality meat.
He said it made no difference to the quality of the meat whether the animals were slaughtered in Bahrain or Australia.
'The quality of the meat doesn't change in a matter of two weeks' travel from Australia to Bahrain,' he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
'We are continuing to import and are taking good care of these animals.
'This month we have 90,000 heads of sheep coming in three shipments.
'Bahrain is also importing chilled meat from Australia to cover any shortages.'
Zainal said the quality of meat coming to Bahrain at this time of year would also be improved because of the change in season.
'We are receiving good quality meat and the mortality of the sheep is well below the normal practice.'-TradeArabia News Service