KARACHI: Pakistan is pressing ahead with culling more than 21,000 Australian sheep over disease fears, officials said Tuesday, despite assurances from Australian diplomats that the animals are safe for human consumption.
The cull was ordered on Sunday after the sheep, which had been turned away from Bahrain, tested positive for the salmonella and actinomyces bacteria, officials said.
Australia’s High Commissioner or ambassador to Pakistan, Peter Heyward, said he was “surprised and concerned” about the cull, as the animals met the south Asian country’s health requirements for imported sheep and they posed “no human or animal health risks”.
Salmonella and actinomyces, he said, “are part of normal gut flora and are present in livestock throughout the world, and in this form pose no threat to human health”.
But Karachi’s top administrator, Roshan Shaikh, said the cull of 21,268 sheep would continue, denying reports it had been halted.
“There is no suspension in the process, as the bacterial presence in the animal is confirmed and we can’t put human life in danger in Pakistan,” he said.
Five years ago, Pakistan culled thousands of chickens after they were found to be infected with the H5N1 “birdflu” virus.
Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, veterinary chief of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, who is supervising the cull, said orders to dispose of the sheep had come “from the top”.
“We are busy in culling the infected sheep with no respite barring a few hours in nighttime when the area experiences power outages,” he said.