AUSTRALIA’S live export regulator and peak industry body have refuted reports of sick sheep and cattle on the MV Bahijah in Fremantle Port, as the vessel awaits approval to re-export its cargo.
The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry today reported that contrary to some public reports, no livestock are required to be offloaded from the vessel for health reasons.
DAFF today said two veterinarians engaged by the department boarded the vessel yesterday to provide additional assurance on the health and welfare of the livestock on board.
The report from those veterinarians indicates no signs of significant health, welfare or environmental condition concerns with the livestock on board, consistent with all reports received to date, DAFF said. The exporter’s registered veterinarian also remains on board the vessel and continues to report back to the department daily.
The DAFF report prompted Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton to launch a blistering attack on “the blatant lies being perpetuated by activist groups and politicians about the MV Bahijah issue.”
“Once again, activists are spreading lies to further their own cause and it’s time it was called out,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“While industry has worked diligently with the Australian Government to resolve this issue in the full knowledge that there are processes and procedures to handle circumstances such as these, we, as an industry, have had to endure intolerable lies about what is going on – all from people that have never set foot on a livestock vessel once in their lives.”
“Last night I saw a representative of the RSPCA on television, when asked what conditions were like on the vessel, describing the most horrid conditions without a scrap of evidence to support their claims. Even at one point describing Western Australian farmers as having “disgusting” views about the conditions on board – well how the hell would the RSPCA know?,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“Despite repeated invitations to RSPCA to go on a vessel tour they have never once accepted,” he said.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said it is appalling that such ludicrous claims were being made without firsthand evidence.
“The same goes for Labor backbencher Josh Wilson, who called on people to come and protest the industry, unprofessionally describing it as “rotten the core”, yet the best that could be mustered is 100 people with nothing better to do standing on the wharf – representing 0.004% of the population of Perth.
“This hardly seems the “community backlash” that those opposed to the trade cling to when seeking to justify banning live exports, all the while clutching at clickbait surveys and push-polling that harvest outcomes in their favour as evidence,” he said.
Livestock are in good condition – DAFF
The department today said it continues to work closely with the exporter to determine the next steps for the livestock on board the MV Bahijah and reach a resolution as quickly as possible.
The MV Bahijah berthed at Fremantle Port on 1 February and is currently being replenished with supplies to ensure the ongoing health and welfare of the livestock is upheld. No animals are currently being unloaded, the department said.
The department said it continues to assess the application to re-export the livestock provided by the exporter as a matter of priority.
Australia’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Beth Cookson, said the two veterinarians engaged by the department inspected the livestock late yesterday.
“While I have only seen a preliminary report, there were no significant animal health or welfare issues identified.
“That provides additional confidence that the livestock are in good condition and have appropriate care and supervision,” she said.
“It also confirmed that there were no signs of exotic disease present in the livestock on board the vessel.
“Engagement with stakeholders has been very constructive to date and we would like to thank all parties for their ongoing efforts and collaboration.”