KARACHI: Pakistan resumed culling Australian sheep on Friday after the importer withdrew a legal challenge to government claims they are diseased and despite tests showing the animals are fit for human consumption, officials said.
A Pakistani court in Karachi last month halted the culling of 21,000 Australian sheep after 7,600 of the animals had already been killed in a dispute over whether or not they were sick.
The shipment of sheep arrived in Pakistan after being turned away by Bahrain, and livestock officials ordered them to be culled after they tested positive for salmonella and actinomyces bacteria.
Samples from the sheep were sent to a British laboratory and came back clean, clearing the meat for human consumption, but municipal officials in Karachi rejected the tests.
Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who heads the city’s veterinary services, told AFP that authorities had resumed culling the 11,300 sheep on Friday on orders from the government.
“So far, we have culled over 1,500 sheep since this morning. It could take two or three days to complete,” he said.
A spokesman said the Australian High Commission in Islamabad was shocked by the move.
“We’re surprised, we’re shocked by what is apparently the resumption of the culling and we’re trying to find out what is happening,” he told AFP.
The Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward had on Thursday issued a statement welcoming a settlement which he said would allow the Australian merino sheep to be processed as intended after independent tests confirmed the animals were fit for human consumption.
The Pakistani ambassador to Bahrain informed the court in Karachi on Wednesday that Bahraini authorities had refused to accept and returned the consignment from Australia as the herd suffered from Orf disease.
The incident has renewed calls for a total end to Australia’s live export trade, which is worth about US$1 billion a year and employs around 10,000 people.