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All News Updates & Public Comment => Live Export News Updates => : Export News Tasmania November 03, 2012, 06:21:24 PM

: Blame aplenty in Karachi slaughter. The Australian 3.11.2012
: Export News Tasmania November 03, 2012, 06:21:24 PM

THE carcasses of 21,000 Australian merino sheep were piled so high they were falling from the trucks as they trundled along unsealed roads to the makeshift burial ground on the outskirts of Karachi.





     (http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2012/11/02/1226509/471362-121103-dilwashlashari.jpg)   

Resident Dilwash Lashari at the makeshift burial ground. Picture: Amanda Hodge  Source: The Australian
     
Just days before one of the biggest feasting festivals on the Muslim calendar, the live shipment of sheep should have fetched its wealthy Pakistani importer, Tariq Mehmood Butt, at least $50 each.

Instead some two dozen amateur slaughterers -- skinners and boners from the local abattoirs, sanitation workers, even prisoners from a nearby jail -- were paid 10 rupees for every sheep they slaughtered. At just 10c a kill, there was little incentive to be thorough, let alone merciful.

Video footage of the first cull on September 17, taken by horrified workers at Butt's PK Livestock and Meat farm, show shirtless men and boys as young as 13 dragging sheep into a killing circle where amateurs with blunt knives dragged their blades back and forth across the throats of one beast after another. In the background, bulldozers shepherd dozens of prone sheep, some still writhing in pain, into shallow trenches. Other footage taken on mobile phones captures even worse scenes: of men clubbing the agitated animals while others stab the beasts.

"The problem was they were so agile they were jumping over the heads of guys," said one worker, seconded from a nearby abattoir to help out in the state-ordered mass cull. "That's why they used the batons to push them towards the slaughterers. They did not look sick. They were so healthy they were jumping like deer. It was a cruel act."

He added that workers tried in vain to convince authorities to let them take some carcasses home. "They were killed in haste because they were declared harmful," he said.

Over several days guest workers struggled with blunt knives and terrified sheep, while furious PK Livestock employees could do little but watch.

"They were not slaughtering them as per Islamic methods," said one employee, among several who agreed to meet at a local shop outside the farm in Karachi's semi-rural Malir district to show grainy footage of the first cull.

PK Livestock is a big and generous employer in this poor district of slaughterhouse workers and farm labourers, and is said to support more than 3000 people.

"They were injuring the animals and then pushing them half dead, half alive into the pits," the employee said. "They were clubbing them using bamboo sticks with nails in them.

"Everybody tried to convince them to do it properly but they told us we had no right to intervene. We thought we should attack them but Mr Butt said we can't fight the authorities."

Some 7667 Australian sheep were killed before Mr Butt was able to obtain a High Court injunction against the state on September 19. A month later the importer surprised everyone by withdrawing his petition.

He was convinced to do so the night before by local officials who came to his Australian-designed abattoir with bulldozers and an order for the demolition of illegally built structures.

Days later the final 11,306 were slaughtered and the carcasses dumped in a mass grave off Pakistan's National Highway.

It's no surprise that the brutal manner in which the sheep were killed has yet again cast a pall over Australia's live export trade, as well as Pakistan's reputation as a safe destination for Australian livestock. Barely a year has passed since the federal government's temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia over animal cruelty issues.

The Karachi authorities have been accused of thuggery and national chauvinism for pursuing the wholesale cull, despite the animals testing negative for major diseases and parasites in two respected laboratories: Britain's world-leading Pirbright Institute and Pakistan's own internationally accredited National Veterinary Laboratories.

They based their decision on the test results of two unaccredited provincial labs that found the sheep unfit for human consumption because of traces of E. coli, salmonella, lumpy jaw, scabby mouth and even anthrax.

Those findings have been criticised both abroad and in Pakistan with experts pointing to World Health Organisation advice that the latter two diseases are common and non-threatening to humans, and that there are few living organisms in Pakistan that do not contain traces of E. coli and salmonella.

Pirbright Institute's Jef Hammond said his team was shocked that the second cull went ahead after his team conducted tests and cleared the sheep for foot and mouth, PPR and blue tongue disease on the request of the Sindh High Court.

The Sindh government that ordered and single-mindedly enforced the brutal, two-staged cull of all 21,406 sheep is hardly the only party with blood on their hands.

In a frank and critical appraisal, a panel of scientists commissioned by Pakistan's central government found its own quarantine officers, the Australian exporter and Pakistani importer all guilty of omissions, deceptions, and "serious lapses" in protocol.

Its report has exposed a deeply flawed process in which corners were cut at every turn.

Contrary to Pakistani law, quarantine officers were found to have released the 21,000 sheep into provisional quarantine at PK Livestock's abattoirs, though the paperwork refers to the sheep's destination as the National Quarantine House.

The report concluded PK Livestock, Fremantle-based Wellard's long-time collaborator in the lucrative Middle East live export market, had executed a "murky and dubious" diversion of the sheep after they were rejected by Bahrain for the presence of scabby mouth (or Orf) disease.

By implication, it also questioned the Australian government's complicity in bending its own newly strengthened live export regulations by rushing through Pakistan's accreditation as an approved receiver of Australian live sheep, while the rejected shipment was on the water.

That is denied by Mr Butt, who refused to comment to The Weekend Australian in detail, other than to protest his innocence and cite his 20-year record of working with Australian exporters.

High on the panel's list of findings was that "unexpectedly, the certificate of health signed by the authorised Australian veterinary officer on 01/09/2012 at Perth, Australia, about 27 days after the ship left Australia, seems to be fake and bogus".

Australia's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries insists the government sought and received confirmation from Pakistan that the Australian health certificate and assurances were acceptable to them.

Then there are the 3000 Australian sheep that Sindh officials found had been moved to a second farm. Among the flock were five dead with clotted blood oozing from orifices -- a potential indicator of the anthrax virus.

Testing by the National Veterinary Laboratories ruled out anthrax. Dr Hammond too says far more sheep would have died if anthrax were present, though neither the importer nor the Sindh authorities -- who twice seized control of the sheep -- can explain how 1500 sheep went missing in the fortnight between their arrival and the first cull.

Some 75,364 sheep left Fremantle on the Wellard-owned Ocean Drover on August 4, and for delivery to Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. About 54,000 were dropped off at the first two ports but Bahrain rejected its shipment, which was diverted to Karachi, arriving on September 4.

In a letter published in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper on Thursday, Australia's High Commissioner to Pakistan Peter Heyward insisted the federal government followed all legal obligations and that Australian vets inspected the sheep 72 hours before their diversion to Pakistan to confirm they showed no signs of contagious diseases. He added that Australian authorities remained confident the sheep were fit and healthy.

The Sindh Livestock Department has taken considerable heat over its decision to enforce the cull during an ongoing inquiry and as its more diplomatically minded federal counterpart searched for a more elegant solution.

Yet departmental secretary Syed Abid Ali Shah insists he had little choice but to act given the international publicity surrounding the rejected sheep.

Both Wellard and the government say the Bahrainis did not reject the sheep -- an important legality given an outright rejection would have made on-selling the sheep almost impossible.

In fact Bahrain's Agriculture Department did reject the sheep for scabby mouth, later reversing that decision on condition the sheep were subject to independent testing, only to have that agreement overturned by the Interior Ministry.

"What we did was in the public interest and was justified," Mr Shah told The Weekend Australian this week.

"There were so many lapses; so many facts that remained unclear and gross negligences. The sheep did not spend a single hour in quarantine. The Australian health certificate was issued 27 days after the sheep left Australia, the importer tried to conceal from authorities that the sheep had been rejected.

"Here we are seeing the international media say that these sheep -- which have been rejected from Bahrain on the basis of disease -- have been accepted by Pakistan. How could we accept that without properly certifying that they were safe?"

Wellard admits it "lost control of its supply chain" but will give no credence to Sindh government insistence that the sheep were unhealthy and had to be killed.

Animals Australia, the organisation that played a critical role in the exposure of cruel slaughter practices in Indonesia last year, says Pakistan has carried too much of the blame for the episode and accuses the Australian government of fast-tracking its Exporter Supply Chain Accreditation Scheme process for Pakistan to avoid another damaging live export scandal.

In a press release issued in mid-September, Australia's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries all but admitted that was so when it approved a "variation to the exporter supply chain assurance system arrangements" to allow PK Livestock to accept the sheep in Karachi.

Workers who participated in the cull have defended their killing  practices as "standard" in Pakistan, as has Mr Shah who points out that  "millions of animals were killed this way for Eid last month and no-one  raised an eyebrow".

Alongside 21,000 brutalised sheep, the casualties in this bloody saga continue to mount.

Live trade to Pakistan has been suspended. Jobs have been lost among the senior Karachi administrative ranks.

Animals Australia is now pushing for a formal inquiry into the  incident with a view to ending Australia's controversial live export  trade.

PK Livestock's Tariq Butt has workers at his multi-million dollar  property day and night making the changes required to ensure his  facility complies with local building regulations.

Wellard is under investigation for breaches of the export trade code.

It says it was devastated by the resumption of culling "despite one  of the biggest efforts the industry has ever mustered to defend animal welfare".

Though PK Livestock offered the Sindh Livestock Department use of its  modern facilities for the cull to assure the welfare of the animals,  the offer was rejected, it added.

Even PK Livestock's modern abattoir would probably not pass the flinch test for most Australian however.

While the place is scrupulously clean, a slaughterer still slits the  sheeps' throats with a sharp knife before the still-writhing animals are  hung by their ankles to be hosed down and drained of blood.

There is no humane stunning. It looks a painful death.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/blame-aplenty-in-karachi-slaughter/story-e6frg6so-1226509479121