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ALEC Statement re MV Bahijah decision

On 5 January 2024, the MV Bahijah departed Fremantle, bound for Eilat, Israel, with a mixed consignment of approximately 15000 sheep and 2500 cattle. This consignment was approved by the Federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and was undertaken by Bassam Dabbah, an exporter that is not a member of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC).

On 16 January, the shipping company made the decision to re-route the vessel to South Africa, due to security concerns, given the danger posed by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea to an Israeli shipment.

While en route to South Africa, the exporter considered their options before being directed by DAFF to return to Australia on 20 January.

Since then, ALEC has been imploring DAFF to be decisive and give clarity on what the next steps are for the consignment. It is DAFF’s responsibility to make the decision, and this is what they have done in announcing that they will not be approving the exporter’s application to re-export the animals via the Cape of Good Hope.

ALEC has not pursued a particular outcome during this process and our task is now to work as an industry to work through next steps with animal welfare being our highest priority, noting that the animals continue to be in good condition.

This issue, which involved exceptional circumstances, demonstrates that we have the necessary processes in place to deal with scenarios like this.

Further to our statement of 1 February, we continue to be genuinely disappointed that activist groups, in particular the RSPCA, and some politicians spread misinformation and untruths about conditions onboard the vessel. In many instances, it was deliberately misleading, and we would expect much better from groups such as the RSPCA and our elected parliamentarians.

Further, we condemn the politicisation of this issue, given that this vessel was unable to exercise freedom of navigation as a result of terrorism from Houthi Rebel forces. Freedom of navigation is a right that the Australian Government supports and one which should extend to all ships carrying Australian exports.

Given the extraordinary circumstances of this situation, any moves to use this issue to attempt to further the Government’s proposed ban on live sheep exports would be cheap, callous, and cynical. Particularly given the acute focus on food security by our trading partners currently given ongoing conflict in the Middle East region.



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