SPCA New Zealand

A timeline of tragedy: Live export disasters

15 April 2024

As the Government continues plans to overturn New Zealand’s historic ban on live export by sea, we take a moment to look back on the disasters this practice continues to cause around the world.

A timeline of tragedy: Live export disasters

Many New Zealanders will remember the Gulf Livestock 1 sinking in 2020. When the ship went down after leaving Kiwi shores, all cattle on board (almost 6,000 pregnant cows) and over 40 of its human crew perished.

Those lobbying for a return of the trade suggest disasters such as these are a rarity, but ships carrying live animals are at least twice as likely to suffer a "total loss" from sinking or grounding as standard cargo vessels.

This year already we have seen countless examples of live export ships falling into peril due to forces outside the industry’s control. They show that no matter the intention of those within the trade, things like armed conflicts, typhoons, collisions, running aground, fires, disease outbreaks, ship engine failure, stranding, insufficient feed and water, and heat stress can throw voyages into disarray.

Below is a summary of livestock ship disasters from the last 10 years:


  • Greece; 6,800 sheep and lambs; Lady Maria. Ship stranded off the coast of Greece after running aground
  • South Africa; 56,000 sheep; Al Messilah. Infectious disease outbreak at feedlot prior to loading with only those showing clinical signs removed from feedlot
  • Indonesia; ship capacity for 2,200-4,500 cattle; Brahman Express. More than 150 cattle die on route between Australia and Indonesia
  • South Africa; 19,000 cattle; MV Al Kuwait. Overwhelming stench prompts inspection revealing diseased and injured animals and extreme build-up of faeces and urine
  • Australia; 14,000 sheep & 2,500 cattle; MV Bahijah. Ship stranded off Australian coast after being ordered to return due to armed conflict in Red Sea. Animals re-exported to Israel via a longer route


  • Australia; 3,600 cattle; Brahman Express. Fire in engine room - ship had to return to port
  • Australia 1,800 cattle; Nine Eagle. Major engine failure - animals returned to Australia after 6 days at sea


  • France; 780 bulls; Nadar A. Turned away from port and stranded at sea – killed for welfare reasons
  • New Zealand, 12,300 cattle; MV Al Kuwait. Ship broke down enroute to pick up cattle waiting in pre-export isolation - cattle stranded and welfare problems reported
  • Sudan; 15,000 sheep; Badr 1. Ship sank - death by drowning


  • Suez Canal; 20 ships carrying animals (numbers unknown). Canal blocked - ships stranded at sea with insufficient feed and water
  • Spain; 1,700 cattle & 864 young bulls; Elbeik & Karim Allah. Culled for welfare reasons after 3 months at sea


  • New Zealand; 6,000 pregnant cows; Gulf Livestock 1. Ship capsized - death by drowning


  • Romania; 14,000 sheep; Queen Hind. Ship capsized - death by drowning


  • Australia; 4,327 dairy heifers; MV Jawan. Ship makes emergency return to port after stability issues caused it to rock violently


  • Australia; 2,400 sheep; Awassi Express. Died on board - heat stress


  • Brazil; 5,000 cattle; Haider. Ship capsized – death by drowning


  • Australia; 4,200 sheep; Bader III. Died on board - heat stress
Hello! Choose your nearest SPCA Centre and see content specific to your location:
Hit enter to submit