More than 100 cattle die on export ship travelling from Australia to Indonesia | Australia news

More than 100 cattle have died on an export ship destined for Indonesia, prompting a “priority” investigation by the federal government.

The deaths occurred on the Brahman Express, which left Darwin on 14 March and arrived in Indonesia six days later.

All cattle were inspected according to government regulations before the ship left Darwin.

A department spokesperson said there was “no suggestion that exotic animal disease is involved” including foot-and-mouth disease or lumpy skin disease.

“We have been notified by a commercial exporter of an incident involving cattle deaths on a live export vessel exporting to Indonesia,” the spokesperson said.

“Australia remains free of exotic animal diseases such as lumpy skin disease and foot-and-mouth disease.”

The department said it is investigating the deaths as a “matter of priority”.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has suggested the deaths were caused by botulism, a toxin that attacks the nervous system.

“Based on evidence so far we believe the cause of the death is botulism, but we are awaiting confirmation from the department of agriculture,” Mark Harvey-Sutton from the Australian Livestock Exporters Council said.

“Efforts are under way to treat remaining animals that may be affected,” a council spokesperson said.

“Prior to departure, all livestock loaded on to the vessel were assessed to be in good health and fit to load and were inspected by veterinarians.

“The issue was self-reported by the exporter, which is assisting [the department] with further investigation. The exporter has conducted itself correctly through the process and will work closely with DAFF [Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry] to determine the cause of the deaths.”

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The Greens deputy leader, Mehreen Faruqi, said the deaths highlighted a need to ban all live exports.

“The death of more than 100 cattle at sea is just horrific,” Faruqi said. “It is yet another 100 [plus] reasons why live export is not compatible with animal welfare”.

The affected animals were believed to have come from a single property in the Northern Territory.

According to the council, Indonesia is Australia’s most important trading partner for live cattle.

The Albanese government has committed to phasing out live sheep exports by sea. No similar commitments have been made for cattle exports.