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As the live export industry remains apathetic in the face of the escalating crisis, the RSPCA has urged the federal Department of Agriculture to immediately intervene using its powers under the Export Control Act 2020 to protect the welfare of animals on the MV Bahijah and stop any potentially catastrophic threat of re-export.

The RSPCA has today urgently written to the Department highlighting its grave concerns over the welfare of the 12,000+ sheep and 2,000 cattle that are believed to be on board (accurate numbers have not been provided).

The stricken ship remains at anchor near Fremantle where animals are being kept out of public sight, with reportedly sick animals on board, and in temperatures now expected to reach 40 degrees.

The RSPCA is actively calling for an independent veterinarian to be allowed to conduct an emergency check on the welfare of the animals, including a full welfare assessment of the animals.

“This situation could not be more urgent now,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Science Officer Dr Suzanne Fowler.

“The lack of action, transparency and accountability from the exporter is completely unacceptable. While our most immediate concerns are for these animals on board, this is sadly symptomatic of the disaster-plagued live sheep export trade overall and is one of the many reasons why we believe this volatile trade must end.

“The clear question is, what is this exporter trying to hide? And for those of us who are familiar with this trade, we know exactly what they don’t want the public to see.

“Live export is extremely stressful for animals. After 26 days at sea and counting, these Australian sheep and cattle will be facing a prolonged, heightened state of stress that – as it does for humans – makes them more vulnerable to illness and disease.

“They have already endured sustained heat and humidity, weeks of living in their own waste, crowding, unfamiliar environment and volatile movement of the ship. To subject them to what could end up being a total of 60 plus days of this is inarguably unconscionable.

“The industry’s threat to re-export the animals is recklessly irresponsible, callous, and prioritises their profits over the welfare of these animals which is now in perilous danger,” said Dr Fowler.

“The lack of concern for the welfare of these animals, the poor contingency planning and the extraordinary avoidance of scrutiny and accountability show exactly why the live sheep trade needs to end as soon as possible.

“We are gravely concerned about the proposal to re-export these animals. They have unequivocally already suffered enough,” said Dr Fowler.

“A legislated end date for Australia’s live sheep export must be passed in this term of Parliament - and for the majority of caring Australians, as this week’s debacle has shown, it can’t come soon enough,” she said.

Learn more about the issues with live sheep export.

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