A Sindh government official said on Saturday that media reports suggesting the recently imported Australian sheep are infected with contagious bacteria are baseless and fabricated.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Secretary Syed Abid Ali Shah said he is not aware of the test report – published by Dawn on Saturday – that claims the 21,000 Australian sheep have bacterial presence of salmonella and actinomyces.
Sent by an Australian company called Wellard Exports, the ship carrying 21,000 sheep arrived in Pakistan in the first week of September after Bahrain refused to accept the consignment because the animals allegedly had the scabby mouth disease.
Quoting the “test report” prepared by the Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre of the provincial livestock department, the Dawn story claimed that oral swabs were found positive for highly contagious actinomyces, which causes the lumpy jaw disease in sheep.
“The Sindh government has not released any such report,” Shah said, adding that the federal government has constituted a committee headed by the federal food secretary to investigate the matter in a thorough manner. “The committee is going to present its findings in a few days. You can expect the release of the final report on the physical condition of the sheep on either Monday or Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, he added, police and government vets have been deployed at the animal farm in the Razzaqabad area of Karachi to ensure that no movement of sheep takes place until the final word is out on their condition. “People should not jump to conclusions, as investigations are still underway.”
When contacted by The Express Tribune, a senior official of the Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre said that although tests have been carried out at the centre’s laboratory, their results are yet to be finalised. “The newspaper seems to have picked up something from our internal correspondence. It cannot be considered official until we approve it. Moreover, it was based on just one component of the overall investigation into the issue,” he said while requesting anonymity because he did not have the ministry’s approval to speak to the media.
Saying that he was a professional veterinarian himself, he stated that the bacteria the alleged test results refer to can be found in any animal and is not harmful. “It’s not sufficient evidence to call the entire consignment infected.”
He said samples were sent to laboratories in Islamabad, Karachi and Tandojam. The National Veterinary Laboratory submitted its results three days ago, he said, adding that results from the Tandojam lab were expected to arrive soon. “We are going to have an internal meeting on Monday. Only then we will be able to share with the media whether the sheep are indeed infected.”
The Pakistani importer of the Australian sheep, PK Livestock and Meat Managing Director Tariq Mehmood Butt, also reiterated his claim that the consignment of live animals is free of disease. “Why do not they present us any evidence? Can they produce any proof of the lab results they are talking about?” Butt said while speaking to The Express Tribune on the phone.
In a statement emailed to The Express Tribune, company’s Executive Director Saqib Butt said the report was false and part of a propaganda campaign. “We received a report from the federal laboratory in Islamabad, saying the animals are absolutely free from any disease and are safe for human consumption.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.