According to recent media reports, Pakistani port authorities allowed a consignment of 21,000 Australian sheep to be offloaded at the Karachi port after the same shipment was refused entry into Bahrain because the sheep were reportedly suffering from scabby mouth — a disease that can also infect humans. Despite assurances by the Australian high commissioner that the sheep were healthy, authorities cannot afford to take any chances as the health of thousands of people may be at stake. The Sindh livestock department has collected blood samples from the sheep and according to some reports, the National Veterinary Laboratory has cleared these samples. However, it must be noted that getting such clearances in our country through means that are not entirely honest, is not too difficult.
If the sheep are indeed healthy, why did Bahrain reject their entry? If they are suffering from a disease, why did our authorities readily accept them? Did they carry out a detailed check of the consignment before allowing it to be offloaded? Was the decision to allow the sheep to enter Pakistan influenced by the fact that Eidul Azha is just weeks away? There is now a huge responsibility on the livestock department, as well as on those responsible for regulating food items sold in our markets to ensure that diseased meat does not find its way into butcher shops. Such fears are understandable as quality control mechanisms in Pakistan are far from stringent.
The sheep need to undergo thorough examination to ensure that they are indeed healthy. If they are not, those responsible for allowing them to enter Pakistan must be taken to task and under no circumstances should meat from the animals enter retail outlets. The relevant Australian authorities also need to be informed to refrain from shipping out diseased sheep and other sub-standard items to poorer countries. If something isn’t good enough to be consumed by the Australian public, it is not good enough to be consumed by others, either.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.
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