6 February 2024

RSPCA WA is cautiously optimistic about the future of thousands of sheep and cattle on the MV Bahijah following a government decision to deny their re-export via the Cape of Good Hope.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry says the exporter’s application did not satisfy export rule requirements, including those concerning health and welfare.

RSPCA WA CEO Ben Cave said, as the animals endure their 32nd day on board the vessel, the news is welcome but there’s still no word on the final fate of the livestock.

“We know, at least for now, they will be spared another month enduring an ocean voyage,” Mr Cave said.

“However, these animals are not out of danger yet with a final decision on their future still up in the air.

“They will be suffering from stress and fatigue as this process continues to drag on.”

DAFF’s decision comes as it was revealed “a number” of sheep had died on board the livestock carrier, and confirmation some of the cattle offloaded from the ship on Friday had also died.

“We continue our call for the thousands of sheep and an unknown number of cattle aboard the MV Bahijah to be taken off the ship in Fremantle immediately,” Mr Cave said.

“The direction to turn around and head back to Australia was given on 20 January – why is there still no plan with how to deal with these animals?

“It’s disappointing in the extreme that the decision-making process is proving so long and arduous while these sheep and cattle remain aboard.

“The shipping sites suggest the MV Bahijah will come back to port at 4pm (WA time) on Thursday 8 February. The forecast of 39°C  – 40°C for Friday, 41°C on Saturday and 40°C on Sunday.

“The few cool days we’ve had since Saturday would have been the ideal time to unload, but it looks like that window will be missed.”

RSPCA WA also expressed concern for the tens of thousands of sheep aboard the Jawan, a live export ship given the go-ahead to set sail last week from Fremantle to the Middle East, via the same high-risk Red Sea route.

“Many shipping companies are choosing to avoid the Red Sea due to the threat of attack,” Mr Cave said.

“Let’s hope we don’t see another shambles in the coming weeks, with those animals subjected to an prolonged sea or road voyage.

“The science tells us the live export trade has inherent, unfixable issues that negatively impact on the welfare of livestock – hooved animals are not meant to be penned on ships sailing the high seas for weeks on end and the evidence is they do suffer.

“The decision to end this cruel and unnecessary trade has already been made. It is time for the Albanese Government to legislate an end date for live sheep export and to do so in this Parliamentary term.”