Author Topic: Australian sheep imports hit 25.10.2012  (Read 700 times)

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Australian sheep imports hit 25.10.2012
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 12:24:34 PM »
A DECISION to turn away a shipment of almost 21,000 live sheep at the end of August could jeopardise future imports of Australian livestock, it has emerged.   

Sources told the GDN that an animal welfare clause was breached when authorities in Bahrain blocked unloading of the sheep, which resulted in them spending too long at sea before being delivered to Pakistan - where some were allegedly stabbed and clubbed to death.

It was reported at the time that the animals were infected with Orf disease, but tests by a British lab later certified them as being safe for human consumption.

The GDN has now learnt the decision to block delivery of the sheep breached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that sets out Australia's rules on livestock exports to this region.

"The Australian MoU puts a lot of emphasis on animal welfare," said a well-placed source.

"Bahrain breached this memorandum when it denied entry of the livestock, which was at sea for weeks.

"If Orf was found in the sheep then the correct procedure would have been to offload the animals and quarantine them.

"Once in quarantine and the animals are safe, then you can have further tests.

"If the meat is contaminated then contact should be made between the Bahrain authorities and the Australian authorities and only then, if the animals are a health risk and both parties agree, the animals should be destroyed - after which the importer can begin discussions about financial restitution.

"This did not happen."

The source explained it was deemed cruel to keep the sheep confined on a ship for too long.

However, reports also surfaced last month that about 7,000 of the sheep had been stabbed and clubbed to death in Pakistan, while some had been buried alive.

"You must disembark them (in Bahrain) because if they have been on the ship for 18 days and you delay them, it is considered cruel to leave them there," added the source.

"Logically, if Orf disease didn't exist in Bahrain then it would be a little more justified, but it does exist in the sheep here already.

"A huge factor is that Orf is very common and highly treatable. It only takes a few days."

The Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia and Meat and Livestock Australia, in Dubai, have refused to comment on claims that Australia - a major supplier of livestock to Bahrain - had now suspended exports of live animals to the country.

Bahrain has been in the midst of a livestock shortage for weeks and butchers in Muharraq went on strike on Tuesday demanding guarantees that the situation would be permanently resolved and compensation for lost earnings, among other things. 

A Municipality and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry official neither confirmed nor denied that Australia had now suspended livestock exports, but said negotiations were underway.

"We are currently in negotiations with the Australian government regarding the MoU," he said.

"We still want what is best for Bahrain in terms of its safety. We support the animal welfare standards in Australia and hope that we can find common ground that will ensure the safety of both countries."

Rules on the export of Australian livestock to the Middle East are set out in a document published by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The document, Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock Version 2.3, states animals must be offloaded upon arrival in the destination country.

"The purpose of the MoU is to protect the health and welfare of the animals by agreeing to the conditions under which the trade in live animals can be undertaken," it says.

"Key provisions contained in the MoU include assurances that live animals will be offloaded on arrival, either in the normal manner or if there is a suspected problem, into a quarantine zone for further inspection and testing before a final decision is made on the future of the animals.

"This guarantees that animals will not be left on vessels for protracted periods beyond the normal shipping time for the journey."

According to the Australian Department of Primary Industries, animals with Orf require a soft bed and surfaces for the disease to cure quicker.

"The disease in sheep and goats is normally self-limiting and clears without treatment within three to four weeks," it says in a publication titled Scabby Mouth (Orf) - A Disease of Sheep and Goats. Early manual removal of scabs will delay healing. Antibiotics are not necessary, unless secondary bacterial infection occurs.

"Sheep with scabs around the mouth should be supplied with soft, lush feed to allow easier grazing, and to reduce trauma to the scabs while they heal."

The Bahrain Livestock Company, which imports livestock to Bahrain, declined to comment.

By Ahmed Al Omari , 

Posted on Thursday, October 25, 2012