KARACHI  – The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday stayed the culling of sheep imported from Australia and constituted a committee headed by the Sindh Livestock Department secretary to collect fresh samples of the animals.

A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir, also directed the committee to submit its report within one week.

Issuing notice to the provincial and federal government authorities, the bench also restrained them from taking any coercive action against the petitioner till next date of hearing.

The order came on petition filed by Tariq Mehmood Butt, who had approached the SHC to seek restraint order against culling of 21,000 animals by the Karachi municipal administration.

He claimed he was sole largest importers of livestock and exporters of meat, having established most modern slaughter house in the country.

Butt submitted that he imported 21,000 sheep from Australia and sold the animals in Muscat, Oman and Qatar.

He stated when the animals were off-loaded at the Karachi Port, the government authorities without any permission collected samples of sheep to get them tested for scab mouth disease. The petitioner claimed the most modern Islamabad-based Research and Safety Laboratory had already declared all the sheep not infected with any disease. But, the Sindh government authorities without any permission obtained animals samples and got them tested at Elisa Laboratory located in Tando Jam, which allegedly found them infected.

He contended that on the basis of tests arranged by the government the local administration had started culling the healthy animals, causing huge losses to the petitioner. More than 1500 sheep were culled and dumped at the same farm, where other animals were kept.

The petitioner claimed healthy animals were being culled that may lead to ban on exports of meat from Pakistan, but might also harm the bilateral ties with Australia. Secondly, the meat of these animals would be exported and not consumed within the country.

He prayed to restrain government authorities from culling the healthy animals and order fresh tests at modern laboratory. Opposing his plea, Secretary Livestock Nazir Kalhoro stated the animals were suffering from different diseases. He apprehended that the infection may spread in the country, if the ailing animals were not culled and disposed of.

The SHC bench constituted a committee headed by Secretary Livestock department to get fresh samples of the animals and get them tested at Islamabad-based Research and Safety Laboratory.

It also directed the committee to obtain the samples in presence of two Australian veterinary doctors and the welfare officer, who have arrived in Pakistan with the sheep.

Staff reporter adds from Islamabad: Australia’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Peter Heyward said he was ‘surprised and concerned’ on culling the sheep imported from his country over disease fears, despite the assurances from Australian diplomats that the animals were safe for human consumption.

Heyward claimed the animals met Pakistan’s health requirements for imported sheep and they posed ‘no human or animal health risks’.

Salmonella and actinomyces, said Heyward, “are part of normal gut flora and are present in livestock throughout the world, and in this form pose no threat to human health.”

Heyward said Australia was the world’s leading supplier of high quality live cattle, sheep and goats to countries around the world, in particular throughout the Middle East and South-East Asia.

“We are held in high standing as a world leader in animal welfare and live exports. Our animal health status is one of the highest in the world, and this has been independently verified by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)”, he added.