Dr Lynn Simpson on what happens when an animal makes a bolt for freedom. Part one can be found here.
Unloading another 10,000 bulls from the ship in North Africa, late on another stinking hot night. Cloaked in sweat, shit and judgment I called it a day after a short 16 hour shift of frustration.
Soon after my shower I heard a loud rap on my cabin door.
Yes Captain? “Its G and T time, my cabin, now” he bellowed!
“What happened to the ‘dry’ voyage you were having?” I smirked (hoping he wouldn’t change his mind).
“Stuff that”, he says. “I’ll choose when I don’t drink. I won’t be told by some jumped up power tripper in a sandpit what to do on my own bloody ship!”
OK, if caught, its only 20 years in a North African jail I think to myself. What could possibly go wrong?
Two minutes later I’m in his quarters gulping down a generous gin and tonic and a platter of leftovers that appeared from nowhere. Whilst we debrief and pleasantly rehydrate, an Arab crewmember turns up at the Captains door. Like the guilty school kids we are, we swiftly hide our liquid contraband by our chairs. “Excuse me Doc, they need you on the wharf”. I drain my drink; groaned with fatigue, stuffed my mouth with food and head down the 8 flights of stairs to the gangway.
The night before we had had a 500kg escapee bull. He had broken out of one of the ratty Libyan trucks. Libyan trucks appear to be held together by prayers only. He jumped the breakwater and headed north across the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy. I was proud of his boldness until he became the hit and run victim of a 36,000-ton container ship. As a cattle Vet, I needed nothing short of a magic wand to help him. Alas, down he went.
I reached the gangway, “What’s up?” I asked. I was told the bull from last night was back. WTF? Some annoying fisherman/ people smuggler/ whatever; had towed his now bloated body back to port and tied him up alongside our ship. Really!? I went to confirm he was ours; it was never a long shot.
There’s not too many Angus bulls cruising Libyan beaches. I organize a forklift to get him out of the water and out of the port. Job done, so I thought.
Earlier this evening I’d had another escapee. I managed to sedate this one before the breakwater, ‘hog tie’ and leave him in the recovery position for a forklift to carefully put him onto a truck for transport to the feedlot. Whenever the driver returned to work from praying, read ‘sleeping’, that is. ‘Twenty four/ seven’ unloading has its drawbacks, especially for the drivers.
As I re-approach the gangway from the wharf, the G and T kicks in, calling me back upstairs for a top up. Meanwhile a small truck pulls up beside me, I’m easily recognized by being the only female for about 10 kilometers. “Doctor”, says the Libyan driver. “Please stop, big problem”, WTF? in the back of his small truck is tonight’s sedated bull. I notice both his back legs have been run over, snapped and bent behind his rump. Makes him easier to fit into the tray I guess, nauseating bastards. This should never have happened. I whip into western veterinary welfare mode. With great restraint not swearing my head off at them I say, “I see, wait there”.
I run up the gangway and grab the gun that I had hidden earlier in the roof beam above everyone’s heads- much to their surprise.
I run back, stand next to the trucks fuel cap behind the door and I go to put the bull out of his misery.
One quick shot.
NO!!! Shout about 10 Libyans from nowhere.
The scenario solidifies in my head. These bastards have run this bull over deliberately, in a cruel quest to increase their intake of beef. He had been positioned in a safe place out of harms way, so I thought.
“Its not halal if you kill it, especially with a gun” they harp. The bull needs to die, but on my watch, die well.
“OK, kill him then”. I say, hands on hips, confident they wouldn’t have the guts. “We take away to kill” one guy says.
No way, these spineless jerks will leave him trussed up all night in agony until a butcher opens the following day. I raise my gun. They all take steps back, by now making a wider circle around the truck.
I wont let them leave while this bull breathes. I look at my watch. “You have one minute to kill him halal”. They hesitate as I expected, I offer them the ever present knife from my pocket, “tick tock,” I say, no one reaches for it. I’ve become really pissed off. They start preaching to me about halal.
Ha, amateurs! I start preaching to them about Allah and the Koran. How Islam is meant to be kind, humane and decent to all creatures (remember, this is pre ‘A bloody business’), in my dodgy Arabic, whilst unintentionally using my pistol as a pointed finger, passing each guy in turn. They’re stunned and scared. I don’t care, I’m angry now. One guy dives for the drivers seat and tries to take off. I shoot the bull. Everyone jumps. They don’t realize it’s a captive bolt and has a range of 121mm’s. No one was ever in danger unless I threw it at them.
I bid them goodnight. They drove off with beef I have no doubt they ate, regardless of it having being killed by the only female ‘infidel prostitute’ in the port.
As I walked away, I get cheers from my shipmates, all safely onboard behind the railings mind you, and then they begin to laugh at me. Its now I realize I am wearing a blood red Amnesty international t-shirt. Top row is silhouettes of forearms and hands, bottom row, silhouettes of firearms. In between it says, “Children are born with these arms, not these arms”… Oops. Within hour’s I’m infamous and well known in the port of Misrata for years to come.
And no one ever fucked with my bulls again.
Disturbingly the Australian authorities had been to this port before this consignment to ensure that unloading would go smoothly. Australia hadn’t traded with Libya for a while. The reconnaissance team advised that the exporter I worked for must, at their expense and effort provide and take a specified unloading ramp to ensure animal welfare. We carried this ramp from Australia only to find it couldn’t be used on Libyan trucks, which have a tailgate like a horse float not a slide gate like an Australian truck.
Unbelievably, no one had thought to look at the Libyan infrastructure we would be using. Poor assumptions were made, money, and lives wasted. Safety for animals and crew jeopardized.
Bulls spilled out of gaps, and sheep flowed out of short-sided trucks like a wooly fountain.
The useless ramp was thrown into the sea on the return journey. Unused.
The government/ industry, reconnaissance team had been as useful as a chocolate teapot, Australian taxpayer and levy dollars wasted.
Yet when I suggest to the Australian authorities all vessels should carry portable panels to help recapture escapees safely, I’m laughed at. Go figure, I know my priorities.“
For Lynn Simpson’s full archive of shocking exposés into the livestock trades, click here.