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Rest on land for stranded livestock before new trip

The 16,500 animals are expected to be rested on land in coming days.

The 16,500 animals are expected to be rested on land in coming days. Photo: AAP

Thousands of sheep and cattle that have been on board a stranded livestock ship for more than a month are likely to be offloaded to rest on land before being re-exported to the Middle East. 

About 16,500 animals have been packed aboard the MV Bahijah since January 5, when it sailed for the Middle East from Fremantle before being ordered to abandon its voyage due to Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea.

Except for a couple of hundred head of cattle unloaded last week, the animals have remained on the vessel since it returned to Australian waters, sparking fears for their welfare as authorities considered a now-rejected application to send them on another – even longer – journey for export.

WA Farmers Livestock Council president Geoff Pearson said the ship, which is currently in waters off Perth, was likely to berth and unload next week.

“It’s still sitting with the same number of livestock on it and we’re waiting for a quarantine premises to become available before we can unload,” he told AAP on Friday.

Pearson said there was a consignment of sheep in the yards waiting to be loaded onto another livestock export ship. 

“Once they’re removed we can offload into one of those facilities,” he said.

“We’re ready to go early next week.”

The livestock are likely to be in the yards for about 10 days to rest before being reloaded onto the MV Bahijah and exported to Israel if a permit is issued.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on Thursday said it was working with the exporter to get the animals onto land.

“Any off-loading of livestock will be undertaken under strict biosecurity protocols and with regard to animal welfare,” it said.

The department on Monday refused an application to export the livestock to Israel via southern Africa because export control rules had not been complied with, and it was not satisfied the animals’ health and welfare could be assured on the journey.

It also said it was ready to assess a new application but the exporter may have to wait to ship the livestock to Israel due to legal action there.

Animal rights groups say they have filed legal proceedings in an Israeli court against the nation’s agriculture ministry in a bid to stop the ship from exporting its cargo into Israel, with reports an injunction has been issued.

Australian animal advocacy groups have repeatedly raised concerns for the health and welfare of the animals due to the length of time they have been on the vessel, and the extreme heat Perth has experienced in past weeks.

Authorities have previously said 51 sheep and four head of cattle have died since they were loaded but this wasn’t out of the ordinary given the total number of animals on the ship.

–AAP

Topics: live exports
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