The Pearl of Para, which was bound for Israel, was forced to return to Fremantle, where it started its journey on 3 September, due to a damaged propeller shaft coupling. As a result, livestock on board the vessel have had their journey doubled from 17 to 35 days, which has enraged animal welfare activists, despite the Australian Livestock Exporters Council claiming the cattle remain well settled.
The RSPCA claimed the only way to protect animals on live export trips was strong government regulation and the development of a meat export trade.
Referring to the Pearl of Para, RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said: “Sadly these animals are now facing a much longer voyage than expected, and may well also be subjected to the stress and risk of injury of being off-loaded and reloaded onto another ship.
“Once in Israel these cattle will be slaughtered at an abattoir where they will be turned upside down and then have their throats cut while fully conscious. The RSPCA has previously called on the government to exclude this type of slaughter box from its approved supply chains.”
The criticism comes after a mechanical failure on the same ship last year resulted in the death of 400 pregnant cows travelling from the US to Russia. However, Australian officials pointed out that, during this time, the ship was under different management and chartering arrangements and did not meet Australian livestock export standards.
The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) confirmed the ship had returned to dock as a result of “mechanical issues”, but added that these related to the vessel’s engine and had no impact on the livestock support systems.
In a statement, it said: “Welfare of the animals on board the vessel remains the highest priority and is being closely monitored,” adding that it had briefed animal welfare organisations and the livestock had good access to sufficient levels of feed and water.
The exporter, Alan Schmidt of AH&R Schmidt, told local press that he was confident the ship could be repaired quickly, and set sail for Israel on Wednesday.