Livestock authorities have ordered the culling of 21,268 sheep after laboratory tests confirmed that the animals were carrying the contagious ORF virus that causes skin diseases, officials said on Sunday.
Bahrain originally imported the sheep from Australia but refused to accept them after finding they were infected, according to Haleem Adil Shaikh, an adviser to provincial chief minister. However, a local importer brought these sheep to Pakistan.
The sheep carry a virus that Pakistan is thus far protected from, according to an emergency letter dispatched to the federal food and security ministry, provincial health ministry, administrator and Karachi commissioner and other relevant departments
The letter recommended that the sheep be quarantined and not be transferred anywhere else before their culling and burial in the present location. A large ditch has been dug at a farm in Razzaqabad to cull the diseased animals.
“The provincial live stock ministry ordered 21,268 sheep which arrived from Bahrain to be culled after laboratory tests showed bacterial presence of salmonella and actinomyces in them,” Roshan Shaikh, an administration official told AFP. The animals arrived some 10 days from the Gulf state of Bahrain, Shaikh said.
“We also ordered them to be culled after receiving report based on laboratory tests,” he added.
The confirmation of the disease came from two ISO certified laboratories, the Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre Karachi and the Central Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory Tando Jam.
Authorities were initially considering three possible ways of disposing of the sheep. This included slaughtering them using a safe way, killing them off through lethal injections or killing them in a gas chamber.
The last facility, however, is not available in Pakistan while the injection process is a difficult one, leaving slaughter as the only option.
The commissioner in Karachi sought skilled butchers; however, experts warned him that butchers taking part in the exercise could be contaminated by the virus.
Authorities have therefore invested in safety measures including the use of masks and hand gloves for the butchers.
The administration has also increased the number of police guarding the infectious livestock.
According to Commissioner House sources, the process of disposing of the sheep was to be completed by Sunday so that danger of the infection spreading would be terminated.
The owner of the Pakistan Livestock and Meat Company Muhammad, Tariq Butt has said the National Veterinary Laboratory has confirmed that there is no virus in the sheep.
He said that the federal ministry of food security and research has set up a four-member committee headed by federal secretary to look into the matter.
The committee has collected new samples from the sheep and a laboratory is expected by Monday.
He said that the Sindh livestock department has issued orders to cull the sheep on the basis of reports by the National Veterinary department only. He said that the value of the sheep is more than Rs130 million.
He added that the Australian government has guaranteed that there is no infection in the sheep.
Butt said that Pakistan Livestock and Meat Company will take legal action against the killing of the sheep.
He pointed out that no sheep had died because of the said illness so far and offered to eat the flesh of the animal to prove it was safe to consume.
He warned that the decision to kill the sheep would shake the confidence of investors and have an impact on the agriculture and livestock sectors.
( With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.
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