70,000 Australian sheep stranded at sea by disease outbreak

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

KARACHI–Twenty-two thousand Australian sheep on September 22, 2012 won at least a temporary reprieve from being culled in Pakistan, and were still alive two days later while the Sindh High Court reviewed evidence submitted by Rafiq Khanani of the Dow Univesity of Health Sciences that the sheep had not contracted serious diseases during prolonged transport aboard the Ocean Drover.

Another 50,000 sheep were en route back to Australia aboard the Al Shuwaikh.  The live cargoes of both ships were refused entry to Kuwait and Bahrain in late August, purportedly because the sheep were afflicted with scabby mouth disease, but some sheep reportedly were accepted in Qatar and Oman,  and diagnostic claims changed repeatedly.

On September 20, 2012 Geo Pakistan reported, “The Sindh Department of Livestock has said that evidence has been gathered that points to the Australian sheep being affected by a deadly anthrax infection.  Only yesterday the discovery of thousands of these sheep on a private compound raised new questions.  Six sheep were found dead with bleeding mouths.  More dead sheep were also discovered buried, and these had mouths infested with parasites.  Due to the possible presence of anthrax, the Department of Livestock has refused to do a post-mortem.”

But Martin Hugh Jones, resident anthrax expert for the International Society for Infectious Diseases’ Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, found the allegation of an anthrax outbreak unconvincing.  From the perspective of having done hundreds of necropses on animals who died of anthrax, Jones offered that the procedure is dangerous only if the examiner is “grossly negligent.”  The “parasites” in the mouths of the dead sheep, Jones said, were most likely maggots.

The Indo Asian News Service reported that Sindh officials decided to kill the sheep on September 16, 2012.  The actual killing started the next day, according to Dawn, of Karachi, after “reports from a second laboratory confirmed that the animals were diseased,” at that point ostensibly with foot-and-mouth disease.  The remains were bulldozed into a 15-foot-deep ditch.

“There is no option left in the public interest but to cull all of the animals,” said senior Sindh official Syed Abid Ali Shah.

But Pakistan does not usually cull livestock due to foot-and-mouth disease. Foot-and-mouth disease is endemic in Punjab, as exposed at length that very day in “FMD: a threat to the dairy industry!”, by veteriniarians Khushi Muhammad, Farhat Nazir Awan, Akram Munir, and Athar Khan, published in The Nation, a leading daily newspaper.  The vets estimated that perhaps 10% of the cattle in Pakistan are afflicted with foot-and-mouth.

Dawn reported that the Ocean Drover sheep were bought and landed in Pakistan by the PK Livestock and Meat Company in Razzaqabad, a Karachi suburb.

The Ocean Drover and Al Shuwaikh fiascoes followed many other incidents in which sheep and cattle shipped alive from Australia and New Zealand were stranded at sea after Middle Eastern ports rejected them.  Thirteen live sheep and cattle shipments were kept from unloading in Saudi Arabia in 1990-1991.  One ship, the Mawashi Al-Gasseem, spent four months at sea with a rejected load of sheep in 1990.  About 5,500 sheep, out of a cargo of 57,000, died during 12 weeks at sea aboard the Cormo Express in 2003, after both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia refused to allow the ship to unload.  The surviving sheep were eventually donated to Eritrea.

Live sheep exports from Australia to Egypt were suspended for more than two years in 2005 after Lyn White of Animals Australia obtained video documenting abuse of the sheep in unloading, slaughter, and covert sales to buyers who hauled sheep home in the trunks of cars for amateur curbside slaughter during the annual Eid al Adha religious festival.  Another Lyn White video exposé prompted Australian agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to suspend livestock exports to Indonesia for 38 days in June and July 2011 due to concerns about cruelty in 11 Indonesian hallal slaughterhouses.

Ludwig allowed exports to Indon-esia to resume on condition that each animal be tracked to the point of slaughter.  In October 2011 Ludwig extended the same rule to livestock exported to Egypt,  Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Turkey.

But on August 30, 2012, with the Ocean Drover and Al Shuwaikh sagas underway, White videotaped about 200 Australian sheep being slaughtered at the al-Rai market in Kuwait City with knives that were too short to effect a quick kill.  Sheep were piled atop each other while still alive.

“Finding Australian sheep in the al-Rai market is the equivalent of finding Australian cattle in the worst slaughterhouse in Indonesia,” White said.  “That hundreds of Australian sheep were for sale there shows a blatant disregard by the exporter for their regulatory obligations.”

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