A ship carrying 21,000 sheep that had been floating in the Persian Gulf for over a week, after being refused entry to Bahrain, has now docked in Pakistan.
The Ocean Drover left Australia about a month ago with over 70,000 sheep on board. 50,000 were offloaded in Oman and Qatar. When the remaining sheep reached Bahrain they were refused entry as the Bahraini authorities believed that some of the sheep had 'scabby mouth' disease.
The ship then went to Kuwait - there is no record of any animals being offloaded in Kuwait. It then sailed back to Bahrain, arriving on 29 August. It was again rejected. It remained off the coast of Bahrain whilst Australian government officials and the ship owners negotiated with Bahraini officials and sought an alternative port if an agreement could not be reached. Eventually the sheep were unloaded on 4 September in Pakistan. In total the sheep were stranded at sea for two weeks after first being rejected by Bahrain.
This is the second incident involving Australian exports to the Middle East in the last few days. We believe that the Al Shuwaikh, carrying up to 50,000 sheep from Australia was rejected for unloading in Bahrain before sailing on to Kuwait where it was also initially rejected. We gather that the Kuwaiti government eventually sanctioned the unloading of the sheep around a week after they were rejected by Bahrain.
After the Cormo Express disaster in 2003, in which almost 6,000 sheep died, Australia negotiated Memoranda of Understanding obliging destination countries to accept live exports , including into quarantine if they are ill.
Philip Lymbery, CEO at Compassion in World Farming says:
"These 70,000 sheep on these two vessels had already been at sea in cramped conditions for 2-3 weeks when they arrived at port. The additional, unnecessary delays they have experienced in hot and humid conditions will only have added to the considerable stress they are under.
"The Memoranda of Understanding were meant to prevent this scenario occurring again after the Cormo disaster, yet here we are, with two instances within a week of thousands of animals left at sea for days on end.
"The Memoranda are clearly not working, something the Australian government clearly needs to address if they want to avoid another tragedy."
Lyn White, Campaigns Director, Animals Australia said:
"Australians are sick of this trade, they are sick of its excuses and the suffering it is responsible for. How can any government allow live animals to leave this shore when they do not have a rock solid guarantee that animals will be accepted?"
"Every one of those sheep could have been sold for considerable profit right here in Australia to a local market. It is time for farmers themselves to say that they are no longer prepared to participate in a trade that puts the welfare of their animals at constant risk."