Thousands of sheep and cattle stuck on Israel-bound ship halted by Red Sea attacks

Thousands of sheep and cattle are stuck on board a ship after it abandoned its journey from Australia to Israel due to attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

The MV Bahijah docked in Western Australia on Thursday after it was ordered home by the country's government.

There are around 14,000 live sheep and 2,000 cattle on board worth about AUS$2m (£1.03m) - and officials are yet to decide whether to let them disembark or send them back to sea.

The livestock have been on the ship since 5 January, which is now under the sweltering Australian summer heat.

The country's government said the animals were in good health and added that the vessel was "being replenished with supplies to ensure the ongoing health and welfare of the livestock is upheld".

Two vets on board have reported no sign of significant welfare concerns, Australia's agriculture ministry said.

However, critics have expressed fears about the treatment of the animals on board amid soaring local temperatures.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, deputy leader of the Australian Greens party, said: "Leaving sheep and cattle on the MV Bahijah in the scorching summer heat is animal torture.

"The government already made one gross error by approving his trip through a conflict zone. Sending them back out on another long journey is absolutely unacceptable."

Officials are currently considering an application by Israeli exporter Bassem Dabbah Ltd to unload some of the animals and ship the rest around Africa to Israel - a journey that would take 33 days.

Any sheep or cattle taken off the vessel would need to be placed in quarantine due to Australia's strict biosecurity rules.

Sky News has approached the agriculture department for comment.

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What is the situation in the Red Sea?

Iran-backed Houthi fighters have been causing turmoil in the Red Sea, one of the world's most important shipping lanes, in recent months by attacking shipping in response to the war in Gaza.

The Yemen-based group say the action is aimed at ending Israel's offensive, which has followed the 7 October attacks by Hamas.

Houthi fighters say they are targeting ships with links to Israel, however, the vessels have often had very tenuous links or no ties at all to the country.

The group has attacked many ships with drones, rockets and, in some cases, helicopters to drop its fighters onto commercial vessels.

It has prompted several companies to divert their ships away from the Red Sea - which is the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal.

Sailing around Africa instead means deliveries take longer, leading to higher fuel and other costs, as well as more carbon emissions. It also means each ship can carry less freight over a given period.

However, so far, the impact on prices, the movement of goods and the broader global economy has been less dramatic than when freight ship the Ever Given became wedged in the Suez Canal, blocking traffic through the waterway in March 2021.