KARACHI: After a medical team declared that the imported livestock was free of disease, the Sindh High Court on Monday suspended culling of thousands of sheep imported from Australia and directed all concerned government authorities to take all possible measures to control spread of any disease suffered by the animals or a possible outbreak of any new disease.
Ordering suspension of sheep culling till September 27, the SHC Karachi division bench directed authorities to adopt all-out measures for ensuring health and welfare of the animals as well the designated people handling the herd at the farm.
The bench passed this order after partly hearing the arguments advanced by government officers and independent veterinary, pathology and microbiology experts on a petition filed by sheep importer Tariq Mehmood Butt.
Earlier on September 22, the SHC had directed a team of veterinary and microbiology experts to conduct ‘provisional’ tests of the sheep to determine whether the animals were suffering from anthrax or not.
On Monday, Professor Muhammad Rafique Khanani, who headed the testing team, submitted two separate reports dated September 22 and 23 regarding his visit to the farm in pursuance of the court’s order.
Professor Khanani, the Head of Pathology Department at Dow University of Health Sciences, submitted that 19 samples were obtained from 10 suspected sheep from the herd, as examining the entire herd was not possible.
He said that the culling of sheep was stopped as no sheep was found with symptoms of anthrax despite examination including obtaining the temperature of the animals. Moreover, all the samples were found negative for anthrax after the lab tests, he added.
He informed the court that so far 8,000 suspected sheep had been culled by the government authorities and their carcasses were burnt without obtaining samples to determine whether the animals suffered from anthrax or not and the positive results only occur after the infected animal’s death.
Secretary Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Department Syed Abid Ali Shah along with Director Sindh Poultry Vaccination Center Dr Nazir Ahmed Kalhoro contended that anthrax was a highly contagious disease, however, the laboratories in the country lacked equipment to diagnose it.
SHC division bench expressed its displeasure on conduct of Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Department officers for failing to place on record the documents showing as to why the Bahrain authorities refused the shipment of sheep that were accepted by Pakistan.
The bench observed: “This is a very delicate matter. There are two important questions before us; as to under what circumstances and on what basis the subject consignment (of sheep) was refused by the Bahrian and under what terms and conditions the petitioner procured the subject consignment. Both the questions have not yet been answered.”
The court took on record the reports submitted by the expert team and directed the petitioner to provide copies of the same to federal and provincial law officers, who will file comments before the next date of hearing.
Adjourning the hearing till September 27, the SHC bench ordered that culling as stopped on September 22 shall remain suspended till the next date. Till then, all concerned authorities shall take preventive measures to prevent outbreak of any new infection/disease and spread of any present disease/infection, the court maintained.
On the request of petitioner’s counsel Adnan Memon, the court directed the Secretary and Director of Livestock and Fisheries Department to have the present sheep counted carefully in a scientific manner in the presence of the petitioner or his representatives and the proper record shall be kept safe.
The bench also directed the respondents to file their comments along with reports from the laboratories as ordered earlier.