Live Export

Israel-bound livestock export vessel departs on second trip

Sheep Central, March 4, 2024

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

BELEAGUERED live export vessel MV Bahijah has departed Fremantle in a second attempt to reach Israel with its cargo of sheep and cattle, despite protests from animal welfare bodies.

Trade regulator the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry said on Friday it had approved a notice of intention to export a consignment of livestock to Israel on the MV Bahijah, despite opposition from The Greens and the RSPCA.

The approval decision was made in accordance with the requirements of the Export Control Act 2020 and the exporter intends to transport the livestock to Israel without passing through the Red Sea, DAFF said.

The MV Bahijah with about 14,000 sheep and 2000 cattle left Fremantle 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 around 20 January due to Houthi rebel activity in sea. The exporter Bassem Dabbah offloaded the vessel’s cargo on 12 February and the animals have been kept in a feedlot before loading for the second trip began on Saturday morning for its departure yesterday afternoon.

WAFarmers Livestock Council chairman Geoff Pearson said about 13,700 sheep and about 550 cattle were loaded for the 33-day voyage to Haifa’s port in Israel via South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Mr Pearson the Australian Government approval for the voyage came after Israeli Government import approvals were secured.

“Everything is passed and cleared and it’s on its way and we should see it back in about 70 days.”

Mr Pearson said the live sheep trade out of Western Australia should now return to normal, with the next shipment of about 65,000 sheep to Saudi Arabia and Jordan now being finalised.

“It’s business as usual for sheep and cattle.

“There is a big demand for livestock at the moment, huge demand.”

Re-export should not have been approved – RSPCA

The RSPCA said the decision to re-export the animals on the MV Bahijah – subjecting them to the longest planned and approved live sheep export journey in recent memory – is a dark day in the history of this cruel and unfixable trade.

RSPCA Australia chief science officer Dr Suzie Fowler said the decision means the animals will be forced to endure another gruelling sea journey via the Cape of Good Hope.

“This is on top of what they’ve already been through, with an aborted journey to the Middle East and back, not to mention several days sitting off the coast of Western Australia.

“We know that live export poses cumulative and unacceptable welfare risks to sheep – and this will be especially the case for these sheep who have suffered a circuitous, and most of all, completely unnecessary, journey,” Dr Fowler said.

Dr Fowler said that the MV Bahijah saga has shown that the industry’s definition of ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ animal welfare is very different from what animal welfare science tells us.

“In what world is it acceptable to keep animals standing in their own waste for 30+ days?

“In what world is it acceptable to force them to endure motion sickness, heat stress and constant noise and light? she asked.

“And in what world is it acceptable to, just weeks later, make them do it all again?”

Dr Fowler said the re-export application should never have been approved.

“But more importantly, this trade should not be allowed to continue any longer.

“It is time – beyond time – that the Federal Government laid out its plan for legislating an end date to this unacceptable and unnecessary trade,” she said.

“It can’t be fixed. It will never be fixed. The only acceptable outcome is to end it.”

Mr Pearson said he is very disappointed with the RSPCA, misquoting the condition of livestock on the MV Bahijah.

DAFF said 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.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Olga Parkes, March 8, 2024

    So, after 40 years of campaigning by the general public and animal welfare organisations, and importantly, a current government, the Prime Minister of which promised to ban live exports to the Middle East, this is all to be swept aside and the MV Bahijah has sailed with its original cargo. This makes future live exports from Australia so much easier, doesn’t it? Government employed vets says it’s OK, the Department of Agriculture says its OK. It is not OK.
    It is said that a country is judged by its care of the helpless; human or animal. And this is how Australia will be, and should be, judged.
    Mr. Albanese needs to legislate a date to end this disgraceful cruelty.

  2. Brendan Mahoney, March 6, 2024

    I’m not sure what power the Australian Government has to order a boat they don’t own, with livestock aboard they don’t own, back to Australia. Murray Watt got on 7.00 news saying this was the right decision?
    Then Penny Wong gets on there and said 3.6 million people are displaced in Israel/Palestine…and 1.1 million people will die of starvation if aid doesn’t get there. So $23 million was sent over there … for aid?. Are the Palestinians supposed to print the $1 notes and eat them?
    Where is the boat headed now? Israel – same place it set off for the first time. Just a few people have died waiting for some food to arrive. Think about it.

  3. Sidonie Bradbury-Moore, March 5, 2024

    Future historians of Australia’s agricultural practices will be scandalised by the practice of sending living, responsive animals on not one, but two, stressful and extended sea voyages. These animals will have lost much weight and condition by the time they arrive, some will not survive. Shame on you, Australian authorities, for allowing this to proceed.

  4. Katrina Love, March 5, 2024

    “DAFF said 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.”

    Why then were the sheep not sheared prior to loading? Videos of them arriving at port clearly show non-compliant fleece length (greater than 25mm in length) on many of them. This will exacerbate any heat stress issues crossing the equator.

    You would think, given the controversy surrounding this voyage, the media attention and, most importantly, what these animals have already been through, that they would be wanting to maximise the chances of success and minimise mortalities. Never mind that they don’t actually care that they may suffer from heat stress but survive.

    Even in the bad old days of cramming >100k sheep on rust buckets like the old Al Kuwait (the 1967 build, not the purpose-built Wellard vessel) and the Bader III before it was converted to single tier, we didn’t send animals to sea for 70+ days.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -