The verdict is out. After weeks of laboratory tests and court injunctions, Pakistani authorities finally decided to cull the remaining 11,500 Australian sheep beginning Friday in Karachi.
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The decision was the result of the withdrawal by PK Livestock, the export of the 21,000 sheep, of a legal challenge to Pakistani government claims that the animals were sick even if tests said otherwise.
Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, head of the Karachi Veterinary Services, said authorities ordered the resumption of the culling of the livestock and so far 1,500 sheep had been culled on Friday morning. He estimated it would take two to three days to complete the killing.
In exchange for withdrawing the legal challenge, PK Livestock reached an agreement with the Sindh Livestock Department and Federal Quarantine Department of Pakistan to guarantee that the remaining 11,500 sheep would be culled humanely. The first batch of killings was reportedly carried out in very brutal manner with some of the animals' throat slit while others were buried alive.
Under the agreement, the culling would comply with the World Animal Health Organisation standards and processed through a modern, Australian-designed abattoir at PK's facilities.
"The welfare of the sheep, which we have fought so hard to get back in our possession, has to be the number one priority and a negotiated agreement achieves that goal," News.com.au quoted Steve Meerwald, the executive director of Wellard, the Fremantle-based exporter of the sheep.
Wellard spokesman Cameron Morse said Pakistani police arrived Saturday morning to escort out three Wellard staff members from the PK Livestock Feedlot.
However, The Australian quoted a report from Pakistan's The News International that blunt knife was used by untrained butchers to silence the lambs, which were afterwards dumped by a bulldozer into pits. Wellard could not verify the report because its staff and those from PK Livestock were ejected from the feedlot.
Mr Morse said Wellard had exported livestock to Pakistan for 20 years without any incident until this last one. Due to this development, Wellard kept exports to Pakistan suspended.
"Everyone in Wellard is devastated because 11,500 animals,that the entire world knows are healthy have been culled. This is a first for the industry in more than 40 years of operation," Wellard said in a statement.
A day before the killing, Australian High Commissioner in Islamabad Peter Heyward even issued a statement that welcomed a settlement in which the Australian merino sheep would be processed after independent lab tests confirmed the animals are fit for human consumption.
Mr Heyward's spokesman said the office was shocked by reports of resumption of the culling.
Digby Stretch, chairman of the West Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association said Pakistan's decision was senseless. "There has been third-party tick off on the health of these animals and this has still gone one. We're compassionate animal producers and to see really valuable food like that wasted at somebody's whim is bewildering and really saddening for us," The Australian quoted Mr Stretch.
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