Search icon

Suffering on the Suez Canal

News Section Icon Published 30/03/2021

Livestock Ship 1

On 23rd March, the Ever Given, a 400-meter container ship, became lodged in the Suez Canal, resulting in a backlog – and dire consequences for the approximately 200,000 animals aboard the sixteen livestock ships that are waiting to pass through the canal.

Catastrophic situation

Our Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson, spoke with the Daily Mail and BBC World Service Radio, emphasising that, as time goes on, the situation will inevitably become more urgent.

Peter said: “Under EU law, the ships only have to carry an extra three days’ supply of feed and water for emergencies and that could be running really short by now – and the problem is clearly going to get worse as the time goes on.”

He went on to explain that these ships – the largest of which can carry up to 18,000 cattle or 75,000 sheep – are typically not built to carry livestock, and as a result, animals are crowded together in often blistering heat, increasing the likelihood that diseases will spread. And because there are no EU vets on board, animals that may fall ill will almost certainly not have access to veterinary care.

Hitting the headlines

Peter’s quote was picked up by over 114 media outlets, from Bloomberg News to The Independent, helping to raise awareness of the potentially catastrophic situation for the animals aboard these ships.

It’s time to #BanLiveExports

Although the canal has now been cleared, it is not clear what the delay means for the livestock aboard these ships. Even if the ships were to resume full course immediately, the water and food may not last until the end of the journeys.

“The suffering that these animals have been forced to endure is truly horrific – and completely unnecessary,” says Mandy Carter, our Global Head of Campaigns. “And that’s why we continue to campaign for an end to this awful trade.”

An historic failure

The horrific situation on the Suez Canal has raised awareness of live exports globally, but conditions for livestock transported through the EU are just as alarming. In our EU Animal Transport report, we highlight the failure of the EU Member States over many years to properly enforce the regulations that are meant to protect animals during transport. Routine breaches can include overcrowding the animals; not providing sufficient feed or water; allowing temperatures to exceed the maximum permitted; and providing insufficient bedding.

The report also shows that EU exports of cattle and sheep to the Middle East and North Africa are nearly always carried out in ways that breach EU welfare laws - this harsh trade inflicts immense suffering on the animals not just when there is a major disaster, but on every single shipment.

In order to prevent these breaches of the regulations, transporters can and should take a number of steps to ensure the welfare of livestock. The report details these steps, which include actions such as checking that the water systems are suitable for the species and age of the animals being transported.

We advise the implementation of the steps set out in the report in order to ensure adherence to EU law and reduce the suffering involved while this cruel trade continues.

You can read more about our campaign to Ban Live Exports here.


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).