December 17, 2009: Worst Maritime Loss of Livestock

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A Brief History

On December 17, 2009, a large but largely rusted tub of a ship, the MV Danny F II, sunk off the coast of Lebanon taking with her 44 humans (accounts vary with numbers of people from 39 to 47 rescued) and (as far as we can determine) a record amount of domestic animals.

Digging Deeper

The doomed ship was built in 1976 as a car ferry, but had been converted to carrying bulk live animals for slaughter, a practice long opposed by animal rights activists.  A tad over 664 feet long and over 92 feet wide, the big ship displaced nearly 15,000 tons.  At her size, 28,000 square meters of cargo space, she was permitted to carry a maximum of 82,000 sheep.  On her fateful voyage from Uruguay to Syria, she carried a heavy load of 17,932 head of cattle and 10,224 sheep, along with 77 humans (more or less).

In bad weather the rust bucket of a ship capsized 11 miles of the Lebanese coast, and helicopters from the Royal Air Force and Cyprus Police assisted 2 German Navy vessels and some small Lebanese boats in rescuing about 39 people.  Everyone not rescued alive is presumed drowned (about 43 people) as were all the livestock.  Rescuers were hindered in their efforts not only by large waves and poor weather, but also by a sea of floating animal carcasses.  The British Captain, John Milloy, is presumed drowned as he stayed on the ship as she rolled over.

Once capable of carrying 5000 cars, the Danny F II was converted in 1994 to carry livestock.  The ship had numerous safety violations, including water tight doors that would not seal and holes in bulkheads.  The ship had been registered in Panama, a practice used by ship owners to avoid taxes and regulations.

The reason for transporting such large numbers of livestock alive instead of already butchered and frozen or refrigerated is religious.  In Judaism and Islam, meat is required to be slaughtered under the guidance of religious law (Kosher and Halal), so Israel and Islamic countries often receive shipments of live animals.  As noted, animal rights groups have been protesting this inhumane shipping of critters for years.

Do you agree with the bulk shipping of live animals?  If not, please share your reasons.

*In a “Perfect Storm” of irony, the ship’s crew had watched the movie Titanic the night before the Danny F II went down!

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever been on an oceangoing ship?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Bonner, Carolyn and Kit Bonner.  Great Ship Disasters.  MBI, 2003.

Mechem, Liz.  Disasters at Sea: A Visual History of Infamous Shipwrecks.  Skyhorse, 2014.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Robert Smith of MV Danny F II, is copyrighted (or assumed to be copyrighted) and unlicensed; however, it is believed that the use of this work:

  • To illustrate the subject in question
  • Where no free equivalent is available or could be created that would adequately give the same information
  • On a website intended for educational purposes

qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.