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The cargo ship MV Bahijah off the coast of Australia

Photo: AP

In Australia, a ship with 14,000 sheep and 1,500 cattle on board is causing concern among the authorities. The animal carrier had set off from Australia through the Red Sea to Israel a month ago, but had to turn around in Canberra on government orders. Because of attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militias from Yemen, the trip was deemed too dangerous.

Recently, the situation in the already crisis-plagued region escalated further. On Sunday night, the US Air Force, together with British forces, again attacked Houthi positions in Yemen. The terrorist militia itself still wants to continue its attacks in the Red Sea. This has long since also affected global trade.

The ship, the “MV Bahijah”, has now returned to Australia and has been off the coast of Western Australia for around a week. The Agriculture Ministry rejected a request from the livestock exporter to send the ship the longer route around Africa to Israel. The ministry cited concerns about animal welfare as the reason.

Sharp criticism from animal rights activists

But even in Australia the animals cannot go back on land for the time being. The country's strict import rules dictate that all animals arriving on ships must first be quarantined. So far only a few hundred animals have been unloaded. Now that the other animals have been on board the freighter for a month, there has been sharp criticism from animal rights activists.

The Agriculture Ministry said the sheep and cattle were in good health. The exporter has to decide what happens next. The Australian authorities are ready to evaluate a new application. The exporter could not be reached for comment.

Australia is a major exporter of live cattle. Last year around half a million sheep and cattle were shipped. The government wants to ban the export of live sheep in the coming years.