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The pending arrival of the MV Bahijah in Israel this weekend puts an end to one of the most shameful episodes in Australian live export history and reinforces why an end date to live sheep export must be legislated this year.

The animals on board, who have been subjected to a gruelling 34-day journey, are due to soon be offloaded at Haifa. And this leg of the journey does not include the prior 38 days at sea these animals were subjected to before being offloaded back in Australia on 15 February, to stand in feedlots for several weeks before departing again on 3 March.

In total, at 90+ days, this stands as one of the longest live sheep export journeys in Australian history.

“The live export trade has a long and shameful history of extreme animal suffering, yet the MV Bahijah saga brought the horrors of the live sheep export industry into Australia’s backyard,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Science Officer Dr Suzie Fowler.

“Here we saw Australian sheep and cattle sent into escalating conflict in the Red Sea region, turned around, sit for days in the sweltering heat off the coast of Western Australia, offloaded, sit in a feedlot for over two weeks, loaded on board again, and then sent on an extraordinarily long and treacherous journey around the Cape of Good Hope, known for its rough seas.

“While the RSPCA is urgently seeking further information about the welfare of the animals on board and what actually happened to the animals involved across the entire duration of this saga, this whole sorry tale has shown the lack of transparency, the inability of our regulations to protect animals, and the profit-at-all-costs approach, that are endemic to live animal export.

The Department and the industry need to be transparent. They must share with the Australian community the detail of the daily voyage reports from the on-board vet, what treatments animals were given, how many animals were identified as unfit for re-export and why, and any veterinary reports and advice that was provided across the entire saga.

“What we’ve seen so far is more of the same – the same lack of information, the same lack of transparency, that we’ve come to expect from these parties over many, many years – proof that little has changed,” said Dr Fowler.

Dr Fowler also said the focus now is on the Federal Government to fulfil its election promise and legislate an end date as soon as possible, with the eyes of the Australian community upon them.

“Australians are asking – when will the Government outline how it will deliver on its election commitment and put a stop to this cruel and unfixable trade? Along with the Australian people, we’re waiting for that answer.

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