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Australian livestock stuck in limbo on ship in Perth as second vessel heads to Red Sea

A ship carrying 16,000 sheep and cows that turned back from the Red Sea due to the risk of attack off Yemen was stranded at an Australian port in a heatwave on Friday as the exporter sought to offload at least some of the animals into quarantine.

Passage through the Red Sea has become perilous due to attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi militia that have disrupted global trade.

The MV Bahijah set out for Israel on January 5 carrying around 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle but diverted due to threat of attack and was ordered home by the Australian government. It arrived in Perth in Western Australia on Monday during a summer heatwave.

Biosecurity rules mean the animals cannot disembark without being quarantined. Australia’s agriculture ministry said it is still considering an application by the exporter, Israeli firm Bassem Dabbah, to unload some animals and send the rest back to sea for a voyage of roughly 33 days to reach Israel by going around Africa.

Officials say the livestock are in good health, but some politicians and animal rights activists claim their plight amounts to cruel mistreatment and have called for Canberra to bring forward a planned ban on live sheep exports.

“Australia’s biosecurity and the health and welfare of the livestock on board are our highest priorities,” the agriculture ministry said.

Israeli animal groups Let the Animals Live and Animals Now said they had filed legal proceedings seeking to prevent the animals on board the Bahijah from being imported into Israel.

The Israeli government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, another livestock carrier, the Jawan, set sail from Australia for the Jordanian port of Aqaba on Thursday, according to ship tracking data on Refinitiv