How would you like your lamb?

Published: September 17, 2012

The writer is a partner at Mandviwalla & Zafar, Legal Consultants and is based in Karachi

Sunday brunch of spicy lamb chops with avocado salsa, midweek lunches of minted lamb chops and weekend dinners of braised lamb rack with herb de provence could have become a thing of the past. Unless, of course, you didn’t mind eating lamb that may have been infected with the scabby mouth disease. Not that I am remotely suggesting that any of the restaurants would have served any of the aforementioned dishes and would have been so cheap as to buy the lamb from local markets, but perhaps, one should consider where the meat on your table is being imported from before that forkful enters your mouth. For, as you may have read recently, Bahrain said ‘no’ when faced with the prospect of allowing diseased sheep to enter the country. But we Pakistanis, being the wonderful Samaritans that we are, said ‘yes’.

So what if the sheep had a few scabs around their mouths; our populace won’t notice a few ugly scabs and will happily devour the delicious meat just because it is ‘imported’.

Let us refresh our memories by going back nine years. There was once a ship called the Cormo Express that left a port carrying 57,000 Australian sheep bound for Saudi Arabia. Once it reached Saudi Arabia, the shipment was rejected on the grounds of being infected with the scabby mouth disease. An alternative destination was quickly looked for. Finally, a nation coping with malnutrition and hunger issues couldn’t refuse the ‘gift’ and Eriteria accepted the surviving sheep, after 6,000 of them had already died on the ship.

Now let’s zip back to the present. Why would there be more such incidents after the 2003 disaster? Well, it seems that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Australian minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, with the Bahraini minister for municipalities and agriculture at the World Food Summit, in Rome, in November 2009 that amongst other things requires that all live animals be unloaded on arrival, regardless of their health status. Australia also signed, or so it has been reported, similar MoUs with the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Eriteria. The next obvious question would be, why were the sheep not unloaded despite this MoU? Well the answer to that question is being debated in the Australian parliament as well, it seems.

Apparently, what is confusing people Down Under is how did the sheep end up in Pakistan, especially when we do not have the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which is an essential requirement that a country needs to have prior to Australia engaging in live export trade with it. According to the ESCAS, all live exports need to be treated in a humane manner before the Australian government can export to such a country.

Everyone has been going to great lengths to assure all and sundry that the sheep are in the best of health, including the Australian high commissioner. Wouldn’t you wonder that if the sheep were indeed healthy, then why would Bahrain, which imported the sheep, which has an MoU with Australia for trade of live exports and also has the ESCAS, not take delivery of the animals? Why would the exporter risk another Cormo Express disaster? Why would formalities be rushed for us Pakistanis to be granted the sheep saviour status?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Nadir
    Sep 17, 2012 - 9:50PM

    These sheep are out to defame Pakistan!

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  • Sir King Kong Bunty
    Sep 17, 2012 - 10:14PM

    These sheeps are a conspiracy to defame Pakistan meat industry! Baaah!

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  • Aryabhat
    Sep 17, 2012 - 11:41PM

    Unfortunate but obvious conclusion – Pakistan in 2012 = Eritrea of 2003!

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  • Parvez
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:34AM

    So many questions and no answers. As a foreign author in his excellent book on Pakistan has rightly observed that Pakistan is a country where everything is negotiable, so I suppose that could be an answer.

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  • sabi
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:43AM

    I think in disposing off sheep is more of honour or an element of self prestige involved than something else.I remeber few years ago Bangladesh accepted ship loaded of sheep rejected by SA.on charges of scaby diseas.There were no report of any mishapp in Bangladesh after consumption of alleged infected sheep.Every country has it’s own standard for live animal import.For example annimal fit to be consumed in middle east may not necessarily be fit for european market or vice versa.Our government, instead of doing actual enquiery, made hasty decision of dumping sheep most probably out of fear of media backlash.This shows lack of confidance and lack of co-ordination.

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  • Amir
    Sep 18, 2012 - 8:14AM

    Wolf in sheep’s clothing? Perhaps!

    Anyways, even if these sick sheeps had reached our market, their meat would have been much much safer and healthier than the meat we are dished out from our slaughter houses.Recommend

  • HH
    Sep 18, 2012 - 9:23AM

    Typical hysterical comments from people with too much time and too little information. The same ship delivered sheep to Qatar and Oman from the same stock, so how come only the sheep delivered in Pakistan were infected? I think cooler heads should have prevailed rather than the hysterical ignoramuses.

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  • Jafar Raza
    Sep 18, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Its unfortunate how we as a nation are so tolerant towards our exploitation by all. Heard that the importer in Pakistan is a son (yet again) of an influential office holder.

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  • Raza Khan
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:10PM

    Conspiracy against peace loving & innocent Pakistanis!

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  • Jafar Raza
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:31PM

    Health Alert, 1500 infected Australian sheep stolen from culling ground

    http://e.jang.com.pk/09-18-2012/karachi/pic.asp?picname=1018.gifRecommend

  • yousaf
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:03PM

    In a country where the port has a whole medical staff continuously overlooking each animal for its health,how come these sheep managed to enter the land un-noticed?.Even our slaughter-houses are well-equipped with highly qualified doctors who don’t let any sick animal enter for slaughter.We always get very healthy meat then why these sick sheep??Recommend

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