Court case halts sheep cull

Melissa WilliamsCountryman
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Slaughter of Australian sheep stranded in a Pakistani feedlot has stopped pending the outcome of a Sindh High Court case that resumes today.

It is understood between 5000 and 8000 of the 21,000 head consignment that was discharged at the southern Pakistan port city of Karachi in early September have already been culled.

The sheep came from a Wellard shipment that was rejected in Bahrain because of claims some animals had scabby mouth, but had met export animal health protocols in Australia, were cleared by AQIS, had disembarked some stock in Qatar and Oman without incident and were approved for import in Pakistan by local officials.

A few days after import in Pakistan, a state veterinary department in that country issued orders preventing the sheep from entering the consumer supply chain and required them to be destroyed, based on claims they were diseased.

An injunction obtained by the sheep importer PK Livestock, assisted by Wellard, during the past week has been successful at halting the cull and it is understood the court case will resume today.

Testing of the sheep last weekend confirmed the continued insistence by PK Livestock, Wellard and the Australian Government that the sheep were healthy and free of disease.

Clinical inspection was carried out for anthrax by Dow University and a High Court-appointed veterinary committee, which included the leading World Animal Health Organisation-accredited veterinary practice Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) - and found no evidence of this disease or several other exotic diseases.

Wellard executive director Steve Meerwald said the company had always insisted the sheep were healthy, disease free and would pass any proper testing program.

"We will continue to seek to overturn the cull order permanently and resume normal processing in PK Livestock's ISO-accredited and WAHO-compliant abattoir," he said.

CVRL scientific director Ulrich Wernery said the Australian sheep in the Pakistani feedlot were in good health, exhibited no fever, were not lame and did not have lesions between the toes. He recommended the sheep be professionally slaughtered for meat production without delay to avoid any suffering or animal welfare concerns.

It was intended that Dr Wernery take blood tests back to the CVRL laboratory for analysis, but local Pakistan authorities prevented this.

DAFF deputy secretary Phillip Glyde said the Federal Government was monitoring the situation nd liaising with the Pakistani Government, but it was a commercial issue and the problem seemed to stem from the provincial authorities in Karachi.

He reiterated that the animals in question were cleared by Australian authorities and Pakistan officials as healthy on arrival.

"In our view there was nothing wrong with those sheep when they landed," he said.

Pakistani news websites reported this week that a warrant for the arrest of the Pakistani importer had been issued by Karachi officials and a case had been lodged against the importer. These claims have been unsubstantiated.

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