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Activist slams ‘cruel’ second trip for livestock

Around 15,000 sheep and cattle have already spent five weeks onboard the ship.

Around 15,000 sheep and cattle have already spent five weeks onboard the ship. Photo: AAP

A live-export ship laden with Australian livestock will finally set sail for the Middle East after the threat of Houthi rebels scuppered its initial voyage.

The MV Bahijah is in Fremantle, Western Australia, where it has been moored since the Department of Agriculture ordered it to abandon its voyage in January due to Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea.

About 15,000 animals that had spent more than five weeks aboard the vessel were offloaded between February 12 and 14 and taken by truck from Fremantle Port to “appropriate premises” in Western Australia, the department said.

It said the livestock was in good condition, with four cattle and 64 sheep mortalities on board the vessel, representing an attrition rate of 0.18 per cent and 0.45 per cent respectively – below the reportable mortality levels.

On Friday, the department confirmed it had approved a permit for the exporter to ship the animals to Israel via the Cape of Good Hope, avoiding the treacherous Red Sea passage where Houthi forces have been targeting passing cargo ships.

“All consignments of livestock exported from Australia are subject to inspection by departmental veterinarians to ensure they are fit for export and meet all importing country requirements,” it said in a statement.

Dr Jed Goodfellow, a spokesman for animal welfare advocacy group Australian Alliance for Animals, said the decision to put the livestock back out to sea was “cruel and indefensible”.

He called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ban live exports.

“These animals have already suffered enough after being stranded for weeks on the vessel in hot and humid conditions, putting them at further risk of death and disease,” Goodfellow said.

The circuitous route would take the vessel approximately 33 days to reach its destination, as opposed to the original sub-20 day route, WA Farmers Livestock Council president Geoff Pearson said. 

He said about 14,000 head of sheep and cattle would make the voyage as the animals had gained significant weight while on board the ship, meaning stocking densities had to be reduced.

The livestock that stayed behind has been purchased by local processors who had an appetite for the animals’ “premium weight”.

“So the fact that these animals have come off in such good condition proves that there’s no suffering,” Pearson told AAP.

He argued offloading the animals into WA’s heatwave conditions was worse for their health than keeping them on board the vessel, where their pens were ventilated and maintained a stable temperature.

–AAP

Topics: live exports
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