Sheep clubbed, buried alive in cull

AUSTRALIAN sheep have been clubbed, stabbed and buried alive during a crude cull of animals in Pakistan, sparking fresh calls for the trade to be phased out and banned.

A video has emerged showing the sheep being brutally killed, and the Australian company that exported the sheep, Wellard Group, had been shown the footage and confirmed sheep were killed in an unacceptable manner after its staff were forced off the feedlot.

The Karachi edition of The International News reported: ''Like a giant mass of wool, bloodied and filthy, they lay in trenches - slit open, stabbed or clubbed to death, while many still wriggled with some life left in them, soon to be buried alive.'' The sheep arrived in Karachi this month, after receiving a clean bill of health by Australian and Pakistan officials. They had been stranded at sea for two weeks after Bahrain rejected them because some had the common scabby mouth disease.

Despite Pakistan government officials saying the animals were healthy, local authorities said they were unfit for human consumption, claiming they had salmonella and anthrax, and the 20,000 sheep must be culled. A court injunction halted culling, but up to 7000 have been killed.

The court's decision was delayed until today Australian time. Wellard confirmed sheep had been killed in ways outside acceptable animal welfare standards.

''We are concerned by the Sindh Livestock Department slaughter method because it is inconsistent with Wellard's animal welfare ethos and our multimillion-dollar annual investment in improving animal welfare,'' a spokesman said. ''Because they had been removed from the site by police, Wellard and P.K. Livestock staff were unable to prevent the cull.''

The International News report quoted the Wellard managing director, Stephen Meerwald, as saying: ''I have watched the video and let me tell you that ever since I have seen those gruesome visuals, I haven't eaten or slept. Regardless of whether they were healthy or not, the way they were killed or buried alive is neither humane, nor Islamic.''

The Agriculture Department says it will investigate the cull.

The Animals Australia campaign director, Lyn White, said the deaths showed the unacceptable risks associated with the live animal trade. She said it was clear Pakistan was not willing to comply with Australia's strict new animal welfare rules and the country should be banned from the trade.

Industry and the government have condemned the culling, while Labor backbenchers Kelvin Thomson and Melissa Parke, and the Greens, said animal welfare and live exports do not mix. The ALP MPs have called for an office of animal welfare, independent of the Agriculture Department.

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