The Connection Between the Suez Canal Blockage and Animals Stuck on Ships

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

The Ever Given container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal for nearly a week may be floating again, thanks to salvage teams, but its freedom means nothing for the estimated 200,000 animals who are trapped on the roughly 20 live-export ships that the logjam has been blocking.

What Is Live Export?

The live-export trade treats animals as commodities rather than as the living, feeling individuals they are: Sheep and cows who are unwanted and discarded by the wool and dairy industries, respectively, are crammed onto ships like pieces of luggage and forced to endure long, grueling journeys halfway around the world, only to be slaughtered for meat and leather upon arrival. During transport, these animals are often denied sufficient food and water, can fall and be trampled to death, or can even drown if the ship sinks.

Live Export and the Suez Canal

Many of the live-export ships stuck in the Suez Canal are carrying sheep and cows—most likely castoffs from the wool and dairy industries, deemed “excess” or “useless” and therefore shipped off to be killed for their skin and flesh. These animals have been suffering on crowded ships in the gridlocked Suez Canal for days, and even though the Ever Given has been freed, it’s unclear when the ships carrying animals will be able to continue their journeys. Whether or not enough food and water will be available to these animals during their now prolonged hellish trip remains to be seen.

It’s not up to humans to deem an animal “useful” or “excess” in the first place.

The idea that sheep deserve either to stay put and be sheared or to be shipped around the world and slaughtered for their flesh is a speciesist one. Sheep are not ours to use or abuse for wool, meat, or any other reason. And the importance of cows—who have been known to shed tears over loved ones’ deaths—has nothing to do with the price of their flesh and everything to do with the fact that they’re sentient beings deserving of respect and compassion. If you wear wool or leather or eat meat, live export is yet another reason to go vegan.

Animal rights activists (including the one in the video above) took to spots along the Suez Canal to remind everyone of this and to echo PETA’s call for a ban on live export.

The Suez Canal’s live-export nightmare is one in a series of tragedies. In 2019, more than 14,000 sheep drowned in the Black Sea after a live-export ship traveling from Romania to Saudi Arabia capsized. In 2018, roughly 2,400 sheep died—mostly from heat stress—while being shipped from Australia to the Middle East. In 2012, 22,000 sick sheep suffered horrifically aboard two live-export ships—again, heading from Australia to the Middle East—after they were turned away in Bahrain and forced to endure an additional 14 days at sea.

What Is PETA Doing to End Live Export?

For decades, PETA and our affiliates have been exposing live export’s connection to the wool trade—revealing the hideous fate that sheep face after a miserable life spent being used for their fleece—and successfully persuading brands and consumers to ditch wool.

After undercover investigative footage revealed the handling and slaughter conditions endured by sheep exported to the Middle East and North Africa from Australia, the Australian government suspended its export trade to Egypt and sent a delegation to the Middle East to investigate the abuse inflicted on Australian sheep there. India later banned live export—a move that we’re urgently calling on the Australian government to follow. And most recently, PETA Australia wrote to the New Zealand Government—which is expected to make a decision on the future of live export any day—urging it to adopt a total ban on live-animal export from the country.

In 2020, a Manfred Karremann investigation released by PETA Germany revealed how cows, sheep, and other animals are forced onto ships for weeks-long, arduous trips. Some of them are so weak that they’re unable to exit the ship by themselves. Workers hoist the animals with cranes, their entire weight hanging by one leg. Since a grown bull weighs over 1,000 pounds, this can cause excruciatingly painful joint dislocations and broken legs. All this torment is inflicted just so the animals can be slaughtered—sometimes while still conscious—upon arrival.

Animals don’t deserve this mistreatment, which is why PETA urges everyone to check labels and to leave items on the shelf if they see the word “leather” or “wool.”

We Need to Be Animals’ Salvage Teams—Let’s End Live Export

Together, we can take action to help end this cruel trade. Click below to urge the Australian minister for agriculture to end the live export of animals:

Call For an End to Hellish Live Export

Helping these animals can also be as simple as leaving lambs, sheep, and cows off your plate …

Get a Vegan Starter Kit

… and their skin and fleece off your back …

How to Wear Vegan

… as well as spreading the message: Tell your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter to make a difference in sheep’s and cows’ lives, too.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind