By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune
KARACHI: The stench of the dead, half-dead and unburied sheep at PK Meat and Food’s farm is unbearable to say the least.
Out of 21,000 ‘infected’ sheep that arrived in Pakistan from Australia on September 5, roughly 5,400 have already been slaughtered since last Sunday, according to employees of the company. The farm, which is located roughly 10 kilometres from Quaidabad on the outskirts of Karachi, is heavily guarded by policemen and officials of municipal authorities.
“Government officials are not even letting us feed the sheep. The animals are visibly weak now, as they haven’t eaten properly for days,” an employee said while talking to The Express Tribune in the company’s office built on the corner of the farm.
“They beat our workers the other day when they tried to enter the pen to feed the sheep,” the employee added.
The staffer then played a shaky video clip, recorded with a mobile phone camera, of the ongoing sheep slaughter. It showed seemingly untrained butchers of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) hurriedly slitting throats of sheep and throwing them in a hole that was only six to seven feet deep.
Half-dead sheep with streams of blood oozing from their necks piled onto each other in the hole that filled within a matter of minutes. In another scene, the camera focused on a sheep with a mouth bleed. The animal was evidently alive, yet it had been discarded on a pile of recently slaughtered sheep.
The slaughter was temporarily halted on Thursday, as KMC staff had yet to show up for work even though it was well past 1pm. A lonely KMC worker levelled the ‘burying ground’ with a tractor while a number of dead sheep lay along the boundary of the pen, which was used for slaughtering the sheep the night before, with flies buzzing over their carcasses.
We came back to the office to grab our cameras; however, by the time we went back near the pen, the KMC staff had finally arrived. A burly, uncouth man asked us not to attempt any photography, but when we refused to stop clicking, he took away our cameras and erased all pictures.
‘Anthrax’ in sheep
Speaking to a TV channel on a nearby farm, where PK Meat and Food had moved about 1,000 sheep on September 13 in view of the expected rains, Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre Director Nazeer Hussain Kalhoro said he could confidently say that there were symptoms of anthrax in three sheep that were found dead on the farm, although there were no test reports to support his claim.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, a micro-biologist, who works for PK Meat and Food, said the claim was preposterous. “He’s telling the nation about the presence of anthrax here while he’s still standing within the pen that has such animals. Nothing could be more ridiculous,” he said.
Meanwhile, a veterinarian from a leading World Animal Health Organisation (OIE)-accredited lab – Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (VRL Dubai), which operates as a government diagnostic centre for the United Arab Emirates – issued a certificate on Wednesday, saying the sheep are free of any exotic disease and fit for human consumption.
Central Veterinary Research Laboratory Scientific Director Dr Ulrich Wernery visually inspected the sheep in Karachi and found no evidence of exotic disease in the animals, a statement said on Thursday. “It is of paramount importance to stop the needless and unnecessary culling of healthy animals,” it quoted the veterinarian as saying.
It should be noted that local authorities prevented Dr Wernery from taking blood samples from the sheep for further analysis and his diagnosis is based on a visual inspection only.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21, 2012.