Extended Voyage Agony: Plight of 16,000 Animals Aboard Livestock Carrier Raises Maritime Concerns

Maritime Crisis Unfolds: Animals’ Agony Aboard the Bahijah Exposes Urgent Need for Live Export Reform


In a distressing maritime saga that has captured global attention, over 16,000 animals find themselves trapped on the Bahijah, a livestock carrier, as it languishes off Fremantle after an ill-fated and prolonged voyage. Dr. Lynn Simpson, a prominent former live export veterinarian, sheds light on the tragic circumstances surrounding this voyage in a compelling piece for Splash.

The Bahijah, initially embarking on what was supposed to be a routine 17-day journey, has morphed into a two-month-long ordeal due to a series of unfortunate decisions rooted in callous greed. Live export voyages inherently carry unique risks, blending chance and adventure with the lucrative maritime industry. However, the plight of these animals underscores the inherently cruel nature of the live export trade, infamous for subjecting countless animals to trauma, suffering, and death.

The saga began when the Australian government ignored warnings and approved the voyage, even as tensions escalated in the Red Sea. Loaded with 16,000 animals, the Bahijah headed towards a conflict zone, displaying a lack of foresight and consideration for the sentient beings on board. The vessel’s trajectory, coupled with its Israeli company name and the ominous translation of “Bassem Dabbah” to ‘he who smiles slaughter’ in Arabic, only added to the potential risks.

As the ship meandered through the Indian Ocean and towards South Africa, geopolitical issues and legal challenges further complicated the situation. South Africa, despite its legal dispute with Israel, reluctantly agreed to receive the Bahijah. However, decisions changed, and the ship was redirected back to Australia under the Australian government’s instructions, leaving the animals in limbo.

Now, on the 29th day of what was originally a 17-day voyage, the animals remain onboard, enduring hot, crowded conditions while living in their waste. The exporter has expressed intentions to resupply with fodder and continue to Israel via an extended 33-day voyage around Africa. This has sparked public outcry, with many urging the Australian government to intervene and unload the animals.

Drone footage reveals animals showing signs of distress, boredom, and potential health issues. The prospect of extending the voyage raises concerns about fatigue, disease, and mortality rates, which the live export industry deems “acceptable” up to a certain threshold. Calls for transitioning to a chilled and frozen meat trade echo amid growing public opposition to live animal exports.

As the global fleet of livestock carriers diminishes over time, the industry faces increased scrutiny for its ethical implications and the unnecessary suffering inflicted upon animals. The Bahijah’s extended voyage serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for legislative action to put an end to such inhumane practices, safeguarding the welfare of animals and preserving the integrity of the maritime industry.

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