Live Export

Exporter applies to re-export sheep and cattle shipment

Sheep Central January 31, 2024

AN exporter has applied to offload some livestock from the MV Bahijah and re-export the remaining animals to the Middle East.

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry confirmed the exporter‘s plan in an update today and said it was assessing the application as a priority.

The initially Israel-bound shipment of sheep and cattle was recently ordered back to Australia by DAFF due to tensions in the Red Sea, despite having already diverted to an alternative route via South Africa.

Industry sources indicated that the vessel’s return to the Middle East on a revised longer route would require a review of stocking densities on the vessel.

DAFF has not detailed how many of the vessel’s estimated 14,000 sheep and 2500 cattle the exporter has proposed be unloaded and/or re-exported. However, the department said it is working closely with Australia’s trading partners to ensure any decision to re-export the animals would be supported by the intended market.

These are high quality Australian animals; however, they would be subject to strict biosecurity controls while in Australia, DAFF said.

WAFarmers supports re-exporting shipment

WAFarmers president John Hassell said he would be receiving an update on the shipment from DAFF today, but he supported provisioning the vessel and re-exporting the livestock because of the biosecurity risks involved with unloading them.

“I’m in favour of re-exporting , that is, turning the ship around and heading it on its merry way, because I think the biosecurity risk (with unloading) is too high.

“I mean, how do trucks decontaminate?” he said.

“Once we get sheep into an export facility we are not allowed to move them, we’re not allowed to bring them home again, there is a reason for that,” Mr Hassell said.

He said if the livestock were to come off the sheep they would be confined to a feedlot.

“It’s a feedlot on the ship or a feedlot on land — what’s the difference? They’ve got plenty of feed and water and ventilation and shade on the ship and they’re going to have exactly the same on  the land.”

The department said ultimately, all plans are commercial decisions for the exporter that must be assessed by the regulator. These are complex decisions that must balance Australian biosecurity, export legislation, animal welfare considerations and the requirements of our international trading partners, DAFF said.

The department said it is working closely with the exporter, the live export industry, and state and federal government agencies to ensure the return to Australia of the MV Bahijah vessel is managed with the highest standards of biosecurity and animal welfare maintained.

The DAFF update said the exporter’s registered veterinarian on board the vessel is recording details of the health and welfare of the livestock each day and this information is being provided to the department.

All reports to date indicate that there are no signs of any significant health or welfare concerns with the livestock on board, the department said.

The department is also currently assessing the feasibility of an additional independent veterinarian attending the vessel to provide further assurance.

Wilkie calls for sheep and cattle to be unloaded

The update came as Independent Andrew Wilkie today called for all sheep and cattle on the vessel to be offloaded “as soon as humanly possible” citing concerns about the welfare of the livestock. RSPCA WA has also called for the vessel to be unloaded.

Mr Wilkie said he was not aware of any plan to bring the livestock onshore into quarantine and he feared they would be re-exported in a 33-day voyage to the Middle East.

“This is no way to treat Australian livestock.”

Mr Wilkie said the situation was a reminder for the Australian Government to fast track the phaseout of live sheep shipments by sea and declare a date for its end.


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