Stranded, Thousands of Animals Suffer in Ships Along the Blocked Suez Canal

Egypt’s Suez Canal was blocked for nearly a week when a massive container ship got stuck in the passage. The blockage led to millions of tons of cargo piling up by the canal. While much of that cargo included nonperishable products like oil, Bloomberg reported that at least 14 vessels piled near the closed canal were ships designed to transport live animals. Data indicates that these ships likely contained hundreds of thousands of farmed animals.

Live export has long been under fire around the world for its immense cruelty. Every year, hundreds of thousands of animals are crammed onto ships and transported from farms to slaughterhouses in faraway countries. In addition to the stress of the unfamiliar environment, noise, and constant motion of the ship, animals are forced to endure weeks of crowded conditions, lying in their own excrement.

According to Bloomberg, several of the ships trapped near the Suez Canal were carrying animals between Romania and Saudi Arabia. These ships likely contained sheep, to be slaughtered after their grueling journey. United Nations data reveals that Saudi Arabia is by far the world’s largest importer of live sheep.

In 2019, around 14,000 sheep died after a vessel en route from Romania to Saudi Arabia partially capsized. Rescuers could save only about 200 animals. And just last year, a ship carrying 43 crew members and nearly 6,000 cows capsized off the coast of Japan. Images of the catastrophe show at least a dozen dead cows floating in the water. In response, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries announced it would temporarily halt applications for live cattle export.

Last year, a Mercy For Animals investigation exposed the horrors of live export. The footage reveals steers loaded onto ships with electric prods before traveling for weeks across the Atlantic Ocean. After an agonizing journey, animals are taken to a slaughterhouse where they are brutally killed. Footage shows workers cornering animals, slashing their legs, and stabbing them while fully conscious.

Live export causes tremendous suffering, and it needs to end now. You can help by taking action at

Cover Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Eyes On Animals