Live Export

ALEC and RSPCA call for DAFF data on Israel live export voyage

Terry Sim, April 5, 2024

The MV Bahijah in Fremantle in 2018 (Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

AUSTRALIA’S peak livestock exporter body has backed an RSPCA call for improved trade regulator transparency as the vessel MV Bahijah gets set to offload its sheep and cattle cargo in Israel.

However, Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton also condemned the RSPCA’s language in a media release heralding the imminent offloading of the vessel at the port of Haifa.

The vessel with about 14,000 sheep and 2000 cattle originally left Fremantle in Western Australia on 5 January bound for Israel via the Red Sea, but was denied a request to take an alternative route via South Africa and recalled to Australia around 20 January due to Houthi rebel activity. The exporter Bassem Dabbah offloaded the livestock at Fremantle on 12 February and the animals were kept in a feedlot near Fremantle until 3 March, when about 13,700 sheep and 550 cattle were loaded for the voyage to Haifa via South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said ALEC backed the RSPCA’s call for details of the voyage to be released by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry.

“There is nothing to hide here, and hopefully much needed truth will finally enter the discussion about this voyage,” he said.

RSPCA Australia chief science officer Dr Suzie Fowler said while the RSPCA is urgently seeking further information about the welfare of the animals on board and what actually happened to the animals involved across the entire duration of this saga.

“This whole sorry tale has shown the lack of transparency, the inability of our regulations to protect animals, and the profit-at-all-costs approach, that are endemic to live animal export.

“The department and the industry need to be transparent,” she said.

“They must share with the Australian community the detail of the daily voyage reports from the on-board vet, what treatments animals were given, how many animals were identified as unfit for re-export and why, and any veterinary reports and advice that was provided across the entire saga.

“What we’ve seen so far is more of the same – the same lack of information, the same lack of transparency, that we’ve come to expect from these parties over many, many years – proof that little has changed,” Dr Fowler said.

‘Horror’ claims canned by ALEC

The RSPCA began its media release today with the statement: “As the MV Bahijah episode draws to a close, live sheep export horrors continue … for now.”

The animal welfare body said the pending arrival of the MV Bahijah in Israel this weekend “puts an end to one of the most shameful episodes in Australian live export history and reinforces why an end date to live sheep export must be legislated this year.”

The animals on board, who have been subjected to a gruelling 34-day journey, are due to soon be offloaded at Haifa, the RSPCA said. The RSPCA said vessel’s latest journey leg does not include the prior 38 days at sea its cargo were subjected to before being offloaded back in Australia on 15 February, to stand in feedlots for several weeks before departing again on 3 March.

The 90-plus days of the entire two-part voyage stands as one of the longest live sheep export journeys in Australian history, the RSPCA said.

“The live export trade has a long and shameful history of extreme animal suffering, yet the MV Bahijah saga brought the horrors of the live sheep export industry into Australia’s backyard,” Dr Fowler said.

“Here we saw Australian sheep and cattle sent into escalating conflict in the Red Sea region, turned around, sit for days in the sweltering heat off the coast of Western Australia, offloaded, sit in a feedlot for over two weeks, loaded on board again, and then sent on an extraordinarily long and treacherous journey around the Cape of Good Hope, known for its rough seas.”

However, Mr Harvey-Sutton took issue with the RSPCA’s language.

“The only horrific thing occurring here is the RSPCA’s utter disdain for both the truth and Australia agriculture.

“Throughout this entire issue RSPCA has sought to do nothing but misinform people and here they are at it again,” he said.

“While the exporter is not a member of ALEC, we understand that the vessel will dock some time overnight and successfully discharge with mortality rates well below the regulatory threshold and animals in good condition.

“While extraordinary circumstances dictated the length of this voyage, on the face of it is a demonstration of the high standards of animal welfare on these voyages regardless of duration,” he said.

“These are high standards that only Australia has.

“No doubt after this, social media will be flooded with out of context images, often from other countries, and false claims from activists, which will be yet another example of the fake news machine of Australia’s militant animal rights movement which has Australian farming in its sights,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“Sadly, I expect the RSPCA will tacitly endorse this activity with silence or more of their own mistruths.”

Dr Fowler said the focus now is on the Federal Government to fulfil its election promise and legislate an end date to the live export of sheep as soon as possible.

“Australians are asking – when will the Government outline how it will deliver on its election commitment and put a stop to this cruel and unfixable trade? Along with the Australian people, we’re waiting for that answer,” she said.


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  1. Katrina Love, April 8, 2024

    Harvey-Sutton never fails to astound me with his ignorance.

    It has been at least 117 days since these animals left “farm”. For some, it has been many more months.

    For all of them, they have spent a total of 75 days on board this vessel and travelled almost 20,000 km by sea; plus travel time to pre-export facilities south and north of Fremantle, from pre-export facilities to port, from port to quarantine facilities south and north of Fremantle, and from quarantine back to port PLUS whatever travel time they now have ahead of them in Israel to get to slaughterhouse/s.

    Any producer worth their salt would be concerned about the cumulative stress and fatigue each animal would be suffering after that kind of time in transit with multiple handling during loading, coupled with numerous heat events whilst waiting off Fremantle or in transit to and from port/quarantine, plus rough seas around the Cape, on top of the usual stresses of being in an unfamiliar, noisy environment with constant engine and ventilator noise, 24/4 fluoro lighting, and unfamiliar sheep.

    And now they all face fully conscious shechita slaughter – the cattle by means of full inversion slaughter boxes banned here, USA, UK and parts of Europe due to the distress and trauma they cause.

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