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Activists hamper DAFF in Bahijah decision

Following the publication of the full statement of reasons by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) this afternoon, for its refusal to grant the exporter responsible for the MV Bahijah permission to re-export livestock, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) considers the decision detailed and extensive.

Ultimately, the decision-maker was not confident the vessel would be received by Israel which was the determining factor in not granting the application. Legal proceedings instigated by an animal activist group in Israel which has links to Animals Australia, was the key contributor in this uncertainty effectively tying the hands of the decision maker.

Given the exporter is not a member of ALEC, we cannot comment on the validity of its decisions, nor its approach to alternative export plans. However, the decision highlights the importance of available contingency markets when exporting to the region, something that every livestock export consignment must have.

ALEC CEO, Mark Harvey-Sutton said this finding makes clear that animal welfare on the vessel was, and continues to be, exemplary – something which was independently verified by DAFF during its decision-making process.

“Time and time again the good animal welfare on the vessel is referenced throughout the decision, highlighting that those saying otherwise were deliberately misrepresenting the truth for nefarious reasons and should be ashamed of themselves,” said Mr Harvey-Sutton.

“Currently the vessel is sitting offshore in cooler temperatures, well away from the heatwave impacting Perth and Fremantle, while they consider how best to discharge the animals. This is despite the disgraceful clickbait currently being circulated on social media by activists claiming that the animals are sweltering off Fremantle.”

This sort of social media activity is nothing more than a marketing campaign to generate donations. Make no mistake, these organisations have not missed the opportunity to cynically capitalise on the Bahijah issue as a promotional exercise for themselves. This is how these organisations work and how they generate their funding.

While this is frustrating, the most galling part is the fact, that while duplicitously calling for a swift resolution to the “impasse” while DAFF took 17 days to make its decision, both Animals Australia and RSPCA made multiple third-party submissions to the decision maker, effectively prolonging the time the decision took. These submissions were largely ignored by the decision maker, but their obligation to consider them simply chewed up further time, with no regard for the health of the sheep and cattle on the vessel.

ALEC and the broader industry made no such third-party representation, nor sought a preferred outcome out of respect for the independence of the regulator.

ALEC will be seeking a review of this process and given the clearly detrimental effect submissions from Animal Australia had on the decision maker’s ability to make a timely decision, will be asking this loophole is closed immediately.



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