As you are probably already aware, the Pearl of Para left Fremantle last Tuesday 3 September with 5240 cattle on board bound for Israel and returned to Fremantle waters on Monday 9 September with mechanical problems related to propeller shaft coupling system. It has been sitting in Cockburn Sound for three nights. It is expected that repairs will be carried out early next week and the cattle are still on board and it is stated by exporter that he would like them to remain on board.
Pearl of Para in Fremantle port in June. Photo: K. Love
Whilst some may argue that unloading them and reloading them will add to their stress, one has to question the logic and particularly the consideration for animal welfare (so publicly touted by industry, exporters and particularly Alison Penfold of Australian Live Exporters' Council as being of paramount concern) behind adding two weeks minimum to a three week journey to Israel.
Shipping live animals by sea is not only inherently cruel, but also inherently risky - mechanical failure onboard ships is not common, but it happens. If it happens with a load of cars or coal, no biggie - the only possible loss is economic.
When it happens with live animals, the loss involves hundreds or thousands of lives, as evidenced aboard this very ship when mechanical failure saw somewhere between 400 and 1,000 (estimates vary) out of 3,400 breeding dairy cattle from one U.S. shipment die en route to Russia or be euthanized upon arrival due to their extremely poor condition. The deaths were attributed to a build up of ammonia fumes that appears to have been caused by a breakdown in manure removal and ventilation systems. It is worth noting that the ship is now carrying almost an extra 2,000 cattle compared to that ill-fated voyage.