Cape Town, blanketed by a 'foul' stench, realized the smell came from a ship with 19,000 cattle docked in its harbor

A cow is being transported to a slaughterhouse.
A cow is being transported to a slaughterhouse.Kypros/Getty images
  • An 'unimaginable' sewage stench hit the city of Cape Town on Monday.

  • Residents in the city said it was one of the worst smells they had ever experienced.

  • Officials investigating the terrible smell discovered that it was coming from a ship with 19,000 cattle.

The South African capital of Cape Town woke up on Monday morning to a heavy, sewage-like stench that city officials later discovered came from a docked ship carrying 19,000 live cattle.

Multiple media outlets, citing people living in the city, described it as one of the worst smells residents had ever experienced.

"It ruined my day because even when I was indoors, every time the lift opened, the smell spilled over into the office and it stuck in the back of my throat like a bad aftertaste," one resident, Lerato Bashing, told the BBC.

Cape Town's mayoral committee member in charge of water and sanitation, Zahid Badroodien, wrote in a Monday morning post on X that he'd been told of a "sewage smell blanketing parts of the city."

Badroodien said the western parts of the city and its business district, which are closer to the coast, had specifically reported the smells.

An hour after his first post, Badroodien said environmental health authorities confirmed the source of the "foul smell" was the Kuwaiti-flagged livestock ship Al Kuwait.

Badroodien said the ship was due to leave at 9 p.m. that evening, though vessel tracking data shows it was still docked in Cape Town as of 9 a.m. Tuesday local time.

The Al Kuwait is still docked at Cape Town, per AIS data.
The Al Kuwait is still docked at Cape Town, per AIS data on Tuesday morning.Screenshot/

The 623-foot-long livestock ship departed Brazil earlier this month and is bound for Iraq, according to the National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A veterinary consultant was sent on board when the ship arrived on Sunday evening to load feed for the animals, the organization said.

The stench that spread through Cape Town was indicative of the conditions faced by cattle on long-haul voyages, the SPCA added, condemning the practice of exporting live animals.

"This smell is indicative of the awful conditions the animals endure, having already spent 2½ weeks on board with a build-up of feces and ammonia," it said in a statement on its website. "The stench onboard is unimaginable, yet the animals face this every single day."

The statement urged residents in Cape Town to "consider the plight of these sentient beings."

Another livestock carrier, the MV Bahijah, drew public attention in early February when Australian officials said it carried 16,000 cattle from Fremantle to the Middle East for two weeks before Houthi attacks in the Red Sea forced it to turn around.

When it returned to Fremantle another two weeks later, the cattle had been on board for about a month, though veterinarians said they had found no significant health or welfare issues among the animals, per the Associated Press.

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