22,000 sheep culled in secret
KARACHI, Pakistan––The Livestock Department of the state government of Sindh, Pakistan on October 20, 2012 killed the last of 22,000 sheep who were shipped from Fremantle, Australia to Bahrain on August 4, 2012 aboard the Wellard Rural Exports transporter Ocean Drover, Malir district deputy commissioner Kazi Jan Muhammad told Ghulam Abbas of the Karachi Business Recorder.
Bahrain & Kuwait both refused the shipment
Intended to be sold for Ramadan ritual slaughter, the sheep were rejected by Bahrain on August 21, 2012, purportedly due to scabby mouth disease, a stress-related affliction similar to a human cold sore, which often develops among sheep on shipboard. The disease is also called orf.
Leaving Bahrain, the Ocean Drover sought unsuccessfully to unload the sheep in Kuwait, but Kuwait would not accept the sheep either.
Returning to Bahrain, the Ocean Drover sought again to unload in Bahrain, was refused again, and on September 5, 2012, finally left the sheep in Karachi, Pakistan.
Summarizing official statements, Abbas of the Business Recorder wrote that “The imported sheep carrying orf needed to be disposed of, which is normal practice to avoid the spread of the disease,” and that in Pakistan, “orf has not been reported.”
“Devoid of factual basis”
“These statements “are devoid of factual basis,” responded Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases [ProMED] moderator Arnon Shimshony. “To the best of our knowledge, the stamping out policy undertaken in Karachi [in response to orf] is unprecedented,” Shimshony added, posting links to accounts of recent previous orf outbreaks in Pakistan.
“All measures put in place by governments to reassure the Australian public that the welfare of Australian exported animals would be protected have failed,” commented Lyn White of Animals Australia.
The Cormo Express
The Ocean Drover case echoed the 2003 refusal due to orf of a cargo of 57,,000 sheep, shipped from Australia aboard the Cormo Express, by both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. About 5,500 of the sheep died during 12 weeks at sea. The surviving sheep were eventually donated to Eritrea.
“After the Cormo Express disaster, the Australian government negotiated agreements with all importing countries that in all circumstances sheep and cattle would be unloaded within 36 hours of docking,” White recounted. “This was the basis on which the live trade restarted, with the associated assertion that such a rejection could therefore never happen again.
“Pakistan, a major sheep-producing nation, had never before imported Australian sheep,” White said, “but was hastily approved as an export destination by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Food, & Forests.
“What any sound mind would have predicted”
“What has happened since is what any sound mind would have predicted,” White continued. “The Pakistani media started questioning why their country would take sheep who had been rejected as diseased by another.”
Affirmed Abbas of the Business Recorder, “The Australian exporter visited Pakistan after the issue was highlighted in local media, and started a campaign through press conferences and media interactions to convince the people concerned and the authorities that these sheep were not infected or sick. However, the officials of Wellard failed, apparently because of multiple reasons such as rejection of the consignment earlier by Bahrain government, the overnight approval of Pakistan by the Supply Chain Assurance System of Australia, [and] reports of provincial laboratories,” which were not found credible by international experts but held political sway in Pakistan.
“Of the disease agents and entities mentioned [by Pakistani authorities and media] during the evolving event, namely contagious ecthyma (scabby mouth), actinomyces, salmonella, E. coli, anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease, and briefly peste des petits ruminants, only scabby mouth emerged as factual,” assessed Shimshony.
An appeal to the Sindh High Court on September 22, 2012 won a five-day reprieve for the sheep, but 7,600 sheep were culled on September 27. Karachi Express Tribune reporter Kazim Alam wrote that he was shown a video by the importer, P.K. Livestock, showing ineptly killed sheep, some of whom were apparently buried alive.
“The saga appears to be drawing to a bloody and miserable close. The entire episode has been a display of never-ending incompetence by all concerned,” editorialized The International News, of Karachi and Lahore, “including slaughter by the Sindh Livestock Department in a manner that appears not to comply with religious custom and practice.”
The killing was then suspended for two more weeks by the Sindh High Court.
Sheep were to have throats cut anyway
Testified Ulrich Wernery, scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai, “As an independent veterinarian specializing in exotic animal diseases, I was asked by Wellard Rural Exports to inspect [the] sheep. I personally went into two pens which harbored hundreds of sheep, and I also had a look at many animals who had been Halal-slaughtered. I especially checked lesions around the lips, nose and eyes, and also between the feet. My investigation clearly found that these sheep did not suffer from any infectious diseases.”
While Ulrich opposed the needless and unnecessary culling of healthy animals, he recommended that the sheep “should be professionally slaughtered for meat, without any delay, to avoid any suffering, and also to avoid welfare concerns.”
Observed White, “Emotive terms such as stabbing sheep, which have caused umbrage in the media, only in effect reflect what they were destined to endure by having their throats cut whilst fully conscious if they were slaughtered for human consumption.”
The cull on October 19-20, 2012 “was carried out in secret, and the owners of the sheep, P.K Livestock, were not allowed to be present,” reported Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Michael Edwards.