5 February 2024

RSPCA WA says it’s concerned to hear “a number” of sheep have died on board the MV Bahijah which remains docked at Fremantle Port.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has confirmed some of the cattle offloaded from the ship on Friday have also died.

RSPCA WA CEO Ben Cave said the lack of information and transparency from the exporter and government was concerning.

“Today marks one month since the ship sailed from Fremantle on 5 January,” Mr Cave said.

“That’s one month of these animals being confined to a live export ship, crammed and at times dealing with lurching, rolling seas, while standing in their own waste.

“And still no word on whether these thousands of sheep and an unknown number of cattle will be subjected to another month-long journey if the exporter’s request to re-export them to the Middle East is approved.”

Mr Cave said reports that the number of deaths were “below the reportable mortality rate” is indicative of the attitude to animal welfare when it comes to the live export industry.

“When welfare standards are still measured on the number of acceptable deaths, you know the bar is set pretty low from the beginning,” he said.

“These measures don’t account at all for the many animals that suffer, but somehow survive.

“The science tells us the 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.”

RSPCA WA continues to call for all livestock aboard to be taken off the ship in Fremantle immediately, to save them from deteriorating health and welfare and another four stressful weeks at sea.

“This ship has been back in Fremantle for a week now – when will a decision be made to allow these animals to be unloaded and processed humanely onshore?” Mr Cave said.

“This shambles of a live export story is just the latest in a long line of animal welfare tragedies and bungles.

“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.”