1 March 2024

RSPCA WA has labelled the application by the exporter and approval by DAFF to re-load around 16,000 sheep and cattle onto the MV Bahijah and re-export them to the Middle East a disgrace.

CEO Ben Cave said that the health and welfare of these animals was undoubtedly going to be further compromised having already endured 39 days on the ship, being unloaded in the middle of a heatwave, transported to holding yards, then spending two weeks penned.

“While off the ship, these animals were likely to have continued to experience high stocking densities, being mixed again with unfamiliar animals, and will likely have had little opportunity to move freely, exercise or access pasture”, Mr Cave said.

“Knowing what we know about animal welfare in 2024, the application by the exporter to re-export these sheep, most likely via the Cape of Good Hope, is incomprehensible. This is clearly a profit-driven decision.”

Mr Cave said the animal welfare organisation’s message remains the same.

“These 16,000 animals should not have to endure another second on board a ship let alone 30 plus days taking a route around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the Red Sea,” he said.

“The Bahijah will travel through areas of high temperature and humidity. Additionally, independent observer reports from multiple journeys made by this ship specifically mention high seas as directly affecting the welfare of the animals on board.

“Of what value were previous statements made by DAFF that ‘there should be no doubt that … the health and welfare of the livestock onboard are our highest priorities’?”

Mr Cave said most of Australia had moved on from seeing animals purely as a commodity.

“The RSPCA is not anti-agriculture – we are an animal advocacy organisation that simply understands that any farmed animal deserves to live their best life possible before humane slaughter,” he said.

“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.

“We are calling now for full transparency on how many animals have become unwell or died, either on the boat or since offloading, since this journey began on 5 January.

“Importantly, all animals that have died since initial loading on should be counted against the ‘reportable mortality levels’ industry so often hides behind.

“It’s convenient for industry to break up the two voyages for reporting the number of animals that have died, but to these sheep and cattle, they have been on this journey ever since 5 January.

“The RSPCA refuses to accept that simply not dying is an adequate measure of animal welfare.” RSPCA WA continues to call on the Albanese Government to legislate an end date for live sheep export and to do so in this Parliamentary term.