In a dramatic turn of events, a vessel carrying approximately 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle is stranded off the coast of Australia, raising concerns about the welfare of the animals amid sweltering heat. The ship, MV Bahijah, initially set sail from Australia to Israel but diverted its course in mid-January due to the threat of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militia, subsequently being ordered back by the Australian government.
Now in limbo, the livestock face uncertain fates – discharge in Australia with mandatory quarantine or embark on a month-long journey to Israel around Africa, avoiding the Red Sea. This incident highlights the broader impact of militia strikes on Red Sea shipping, disrupting global trade and posing a significant risk to Australia’s live animal export industry.
Despite assertions of good health from farm and exporter groups, animal welfare advocates express dismay at the conditions, with temperatures nearing 40 degrees Celsius. Josh Wilson, a parliament member for Fremantle, where the ship loaded, states that the live export trade is “rotten to its core.”
The agriculture ministry collaborates with the exporter, Bassem Dabbah Ltd, to maintain biosecurity and animal welfare standards. However, controversy arises as the exporter seeks permission to load more supplies and sail around Africa. Australia, a major livestock exporter, faces challenges in its live animal trade, especially to the Middle East. The Labor government’s pledge to outlaw live sheep exports encounters opposition from farm groups, echoing the industry’s fragility.
In light of past tragedies, such as New Zealand’s ban on live animal exports after a 2020 incident, this recent crisis underscores the pressing need for ethical considerations in the global live export trade.