The Australian government has said it is “actively assisting” efforts to prevent thousands of Australian sheep from being culled in Pakistan.
The fate of the sheep, which were sold to a Pakistani importer PK Livestock after being rejected by Bahraini officials on animal health grounds, is still uncertain. A hearing at the High Court on Sindh of PK Livestock’s application to overturn the cull order took place on 28 September, but was adjourned so that further tests on the sheep could be sent to a laboratory on the UK.
In the meantime, PK Livestock and exporter Wellard Rural Exports has been granted full access to the animals, which are currently being held in a feedlot in Kariachi, to ensure that they are receiving adequate food, water and veterinary medicines. According to the companies, the sheep are currently in good condition and free of disease.
The sheep were exported to Pakistan under the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) after they were rejected by Bahrain over claims that some were infected by scabby mouth disease. Pakistan’s veterinary officials originally passed the animals for import, but the Sindh Livestock Department subsequently ordered a cull, claiming that some sheep had tested positive for salmonella and anthrax.
A number of the sheep were destroyed before the High Court issued an order to stop the cull on 22 September, with reports in local newspapers alleging the sheep were stabbed and clubbed to death, with some buried alive.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) said that both PK Livestock and Wellard representatives had been ordered to leave the facility while the cull was taking place. They said the department was looking into reports about the cull and would conduct a full investigation into any ESCAS non-complaince.
Wellard and PK Livestock continue to insist that the sheep are free of any disease. A Wellard spokesperson said that tests by Dow University and a High Court-appointed veterinary committee over the weekend had found no evidence of anthrax amongst the sheep, and that tests by the National Veterinary Laboratories in Islamabad had returned negative results for a number of other exotic diseases.
“We have always insisted the sheep are healthy, disease-free and would pass any proper testing programme,” said Wellard executive director Steve Meerwald.
“These tests vindicate that stance and the round-the-clock efforts that PK Livestock, Wellard and the Australian government have gone to in order to prevent the cull of sheep, which are healthy and are safe for human consumption.
“We will continue to seek to overturn the cull order permanently and to resume normal processing in PK Livestock’s modern, ISO-accredited and World Animal Health Organization-compliant abattoir.”