By Anna Game-Lopata | October 16, 2012
Australian sheep exported to Pakistan by Wellard Rural Exports have been declared healthy and disease-free but may still be culled.
Wellard says the Pirbright Institute in the UK, one of the world’s foremost research institutes into infectious diseases in farm animals, tested the animals and deemed them fir for human consumption.
The 21,000 sheep, are currently in the care of Wellard’s Middle-east based export partner PK Livestock, pending a decision from the Sindh High Court about whether they should be culled.
According to Wellard, the court is considering the Pirbright report and is yet to make a decision on an application by PK Livestock and Wellard to overturn the original cull order issued and enforced by the Sindh Livestock Department.
The culling of the Australian livestock in Pakistan was formally suspended on Saturday, 22 September, after the importer successfully applied for a court order to prevent the cull from continuing.
However Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), still actively involved in the matter, says Wellard Rural Exports reported a loss of control of its supply chain in Pakistan when local Sindh authorities entered the facility and commenced culling of sheep under an order issued by the Sindh High Court.
“Both the importer and Wellard representatives were ordered by local authorities to leave the facility during that time.”
In response, DAFF says it will conduct a full investigation of any non-compliance to the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), and continue to provide further information as it becomes available and can be verified.
Under ECAS exporters must ensure that livestock will be handled in accordance with internationally accepted World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards up to and including the point of slaughter.
DAFF adds it is aware of, and is looking into, reports regarding culling practices in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Wellard Managing Director Mauro Balzarini says blood samples drawn from the sheep by an independent committee appointed by the Sindh High Court in Pakistan and tested by Pirbright Institute in England, now definitively prove the sheep were free of infectious diseases and posed no threat to human or animal health in Pakistan.
“From the outset, Wellard, PK Livestock and the Australian Government have claimed the sheep to be healthy and fit for human consumption,” Balzarini says.
“We refused to accept the culling process forced by the Sindh Livestock Department and have done everything in our power to ensure their welfare was protected after we were forcibly removed from caring for them.”
Representatives from Wellard Rural Exports, continue to conduct regular inspections of the sheep currently being held in Pakistan that have been exported under ECAS.
They report that the sheep are in good condition, have access to feed and fresh water and display no signs of disease.
The Sindh High Court will reconvene next Wednesday.