A court in Pakistan has delayed its decision on whether to overturn a government order to slaughter Australian sheep on health grounds.


More than 7000 sheep from a shipment of over 20,000 that was rejected in Bahrain on concerns over scabby mouth were inhumanely slaughtered en masse in Pakistan, to where they were forwarded.

The sheep had their throats slit, or were stabbed and clubbed to death – and some were thrown into trenches alive – while there are reports a further 3000 remain unaccounted for.

The Sindh Livestock Department ordered the cull, which was halted after Perth-based exporter Wellard and Pakistani importer PK Livestock secured a High Court injunction and thousands of sheep were brutally killed, reportedly by untrained workers.

The fate of the remaining sheep now rests with the High Court of Sindh, which on Friday delayed a decision on whether to overturn the cull order while additional blood testing and international analysis was conducted.

The matter has been adjourned until October 17, but may be heard sooner, depending on when the test results are received. Importantly, there will be no culling in the meantime and the companies have been given unhindered access to – and control of – the sheep.

“The sheep are in good health and have been well fed and watered,” Wellard said in a statement.

The companies have repeatedly insisted the sheep were in good health and fit for human consumption, rejecting claims by Pakistani authorities that they were infected with salmonella, anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), minor outbreaks of possible FMD are believed to have only occurred in Australia on four occasions between 1801 and 1872.

However, DAFF says anthrax outbreaks have been recorded in Australia for over 150 years, mainly within Gippsland and the “anthrax belt” that extends from the northern area of Victoria through to the central pastoral grazing areas of NSW.

Most sheep exported from Australia – 75 per cent – come from Western Australia.

According to Karachi-based The News, the judge presiding in the Sindh High Court has questioned the anthrax claims.

“(Department of Livestock director) Nazeer Kalhoro said that anthrax could not be ruled out because of the high temperature of the sheep,” The News reported on Thursday.

“Justice Maqbool Bakar remarked that it had been declared earlier that samples of the dead sheep were not taken, so how could anthrax be proved?” The publication also claimed on Friday that many of the sheep that were thrown into trenches were dug up and sold to butchers the next morning.

They were being sold by the very people who were responsible for the so-called infected sheep’s safe disposal, The News said, citing an unnamed source.

Also on Friday, Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig said a full investigation would be conducted by DAFF into the reports.

Senator Ludwig said the live export regulation system worked and blamed Wellard on Thursday for losing control of its supply chain. It is understood representatives from the company were forcibly removed by armed police from the culling site.