Animal activists bombarding the government with communications while it was weighing up the MV Bahijah re-export decision had a "clearly detrimental effect" and exposed a "loophole" that must be immediately closed, according to the Australian Livestock Exporters Council.
ALEC chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton made the comments after a public statement of reasons for rejecting the re-export application, for a proposed record 65-day journey to Israel, was released by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on Friday afternoon.
In the statement, DAFF, who took 17 days to make the decision while under intense public scrutiny, revealed the delay was partly caused by having to process an avalanche of uninvited correspondence from animal welfare groups, particularly Animals Australia.
Uncertainty caused by a court injunction filed by Israeli animal rights groups Let the Animals Live and Animals Now seeking to prevent the sheep and cattle from being imported into that country also effectively tied DAFF's hands.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said the organisation would ask DAFF to review its processes.
"The most galling part is the fact, that while duplicitously calling for a swift resolution to the 'impasse', both Animals Australia and RSPCA made multiple third-party submissions to the decision maker, effectively prolonging the time the decision took," he said,
"These submissions were largely ignored by the decision maker, but their obligation to consider them simply chewed up further time with no regard for the health of the sheep and cattle on the vessel."
The MV Bahijah, owned and operated by Israeli company Dabbah Livestock, berthed in Fremantle Port two weeks ago after 25 days at sea to take on fresh feed and other supplies. None of the approximately 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle aboard the vessel were unloaded at that time.
It had first departed Fremantle on January 5 but abandoned that voyage due to the risk of violence by Houthis militants targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea channel.
West Australia Premier Roger Cook said on Sunday that the vessel would be de-stocked over the coming days but did not flag where the livestock would be processed.
In a long and detailed statement, DAFF Acting First Assistant Secretary Andrew McDonald said a "stream of information" was received from the official Israeli competent authority and animal welfare organisations, including developments in relation to the court proceedings, animal welfare and the application to re-export via the Cape of Good Hope.
"It is regrettable that this has meant that despite my and the department's best efforts, it was not possible to make a decision earlier," he wrote.
"The expediency and manner of interactions with the department and other authorities can have a real and detrimental impact on a decision maker's ability to make a timely decision in the interests of best achieving the objects of the Act.
"I also noted the media attention and that various animal welfare organisations had made submissions opposing the re-export of the livestock. I gave some weight to these submissions to the extent that they represented the opinions of a part of the community."
In making the decision to reject the re-export application, Mr McDonald said he was satisfied that the long haul management plan provided by the exporter "would mitigate the risks to animal welfare from the proposed extended long-haul voyage" and gave weight to the fact an experienced veterinarian would be onboard for the entire journey.
Ultimately, the decision-maker was not confident the vessel would be received by Israel, either for well-being reasons or the uncertainty of the injunction proceedings in Israel, which was the determining factor in not granting the application.
Meanwhile, the RSPCA also demanded that DAFF intervene using powers under the Export Control Act to stop re-exporting and activist group Stop Live Exports held a protest at Fremantle Port.
The agitation of activists continued despite an independent welfare assessment that there were no health and welfare concerns onboard - directly countering social media and media reports driven by animal activist groups there were thousands of sick animals on board.
The misinformation campaign so frustrated authorities that a DAFF spokesperson took the extraordinary step of correcting the narrative, saying that "contrary to public reports, no livestock are required to be offloaded for health reasons."
Mr Harvey-Sutton said while the report "makes clear that animal welfare on the vessel was, and continues to be, exemplary", those saying otherwise were "deliberately misrepresenting the truth for nefarious reasons."
"Currently the vessel is sitting offshore in cooler temperatures, well away from the heatwave impacting Perth and Fremantle, while they consider how best to discharge the animals," he said.
"This is despite the disgraceful clickbait currently being circulated on social media by activists claiming that the animals are sweltering off Fremantle.
"This sort of social media activity is nothing more than a marketing campaign to generate donations. Make no mistake, these organisations have not missed the opportunity to cynically capitalise on the Bahija issue as a promotional exercise for themselves."
Animals Australia were contacted for comment.