An activist uses ropes to climb on board the ship which transports live sheep.

Courtesy of ABC News

Police have arrested animal rights protesters who boarded a live export ship at the port of Fremantle in Western Australia.

Around a dozen activists boarded the ship, Al Shuwaikh, under the cover of darkness to film what they say is animal cruelty.

Three protesters were locked onto the ship while another two attached themselves to the front gate of the port.

The Police Tactical Response Group worked to detach the activists.

One of the protesters, Cameron Johnson, says they are calling for the live sheep export trade to be halted.

“The damage that’s been done, the cruelty that’s been perpetrated overseas starts here,” he said.

“What we are trying to highlight and raise awareness about is that it’s not just overseas that these animals are being mistreated, as is evidenced by the videos we’re seeing coming out of the ports that they’re destined to go to, it’s actually the cruelty starting here in Australia.

“We’re complicit in what’s going on with these animals and we need to take greater responsibility for their welfare.”

Police attempt to cut free two protesters chained to a gate at Fremantle port.

Police have arrested nine protesters; six people were charged with trespass and three were charged with offenses relating to unathorised access.

One of the men attempted to escape by jumping overboard into the harbour but he was caught and charged.

The Western Australian Farmers Federation’s Jeff Murray has condemned their actions, saying measures are in place to protect animal welfare.

“To be disrupted by these radicals is very disappointing,” he said.

“We all rely heavily on the live export trade in Western Australia and the Federal Government has put in place all the hoops to jump through.

“At the end of the day, we’re on the other side of the water, we’re a long way away from where all the action is taking place but, I think, with the monitoring that’s in place I’m sure we’ve got as good a thing in place as we can get.”

Mr Johnson says, however, they are highlighting the cruelty of the live sheep trade.

“What we’re trying to do is point out that these animals could be slaughtered in Australia, creating jobs in Australia, for Australians rather than sending them overseas and dealing with all the unpleasantness that happens to these animals; cruelty, basically,” he said.

Mr Johnson claimed to be acting on behalf of Animals Australia but the animal welfare organisation has denied any connection to the group and says the protest was not organised by them.

Police have set up a barricade to allow the loading of sheep to continue.