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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
'Sheep of shame' going home
A ship carrying about 50,000 Australian sheep is on its way back to Australia after being stranded in the Middle East for the last two months.

Left Australia 6 August
Refused entry by Saudi Arabia
30 other countries refuse cargo
Will reach Cocos Islands late October
About 30 countries have refused to accept the sheep, claiming some of them are diseased.

Now the ship carrying the so-called "sheep of shame" is heading for the remote Cocos Islands, off the coast of Western Australia, and should arrive in about 10 days time.

The sheep will go through a rigorous quarantine inspection, but it is not yet known if they will be sent back to mainland Australia to be slaughtered.

After leaving the Australian port of Fremantle, the sheep were originally destined for Saudi Arabia.

But Saudi authorities in Jeddah said some of the animals were diseased and refused to accept them.

The Australian government disputed this and the Prime Minister, John Howard, said the Saudis had no proper basis for refusing the cargo.

Several other countries also turned down the sheep when the animals were offered to them instead.

Animal rights groups around the world said the sheep should have been slaughtered rather than remain stuck on the ship.

More than 5,000 have died during the voyage.

According to Mr Howard, large-scale slaughter at sea would have raised serious environmental concerns.

US help sought for sheep ship
02 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Stranded sheep not for Iraq
27 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Activists halt sheep shipment
24 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Pakistan rejects Australian sheep
22 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Australian sheep on 'death ship'
12 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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