Iguess there must be other nations too which exhibit the same level of cruelty to animals as we do without fail but when one dastardly act is repeated by another in Pakistan, it becomes difficult to rationalise things. The horrible way in which over 7,000 Australian sheep were recently butchered on the utterly false and self-serving orders of the government of Sindh must jolt this nation, particularly its greedy and utterly corrupt officials who are regally indifferent to the damage they have inflicted. Our trade relations with the rightly indignant Australians have taken a nosedive. As usual a blanket of lies now covers the crime. As is the hallowed tradition here, those who were guilty of merciless sheep-slaughter and personal profiteering have vaporised. Accountability? You must be joking. What’s 7,000 sheep anyway? Oops sorry, we slaughtered them. Didn’t they have anthrax?
The Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1890 – has it not been upgraded? It is already 122 years old – states that ‘if any person kills any animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner, he shall be punished....’and yet this law is flouted day and night, with hardly anyone ever ‘brought to book.’ Of the 20,468 sheep imported from Australia, the 7,667 allegedly suffering from anthrax (a fabrication) were culled on Sindh government’s orders by slitting their throats, stabbing or clubbing them. Shocking video footage aired in Australia showed many animals were still alive when they were thrown into trenches. People who have seen this are simply horrified and are led to wonder what kind of beasts populate this country called Pakistan?
A long process established that the sheep were in 100 percent good health, as tests at the established and reputable Pirbright Institute overseas specialising in infectious diseases in farm animals, verified. It is now established that underlying political/profit-based motivations of some officials and elements in the media led these people to generate a public scare. A public scare was thus created, enabling the culling ‘in the public interest.’
About 7,000 sheep thus lost their lives in a bloodbath enacted by the faithful. Since then the Australian government has expressed its horror and concern to the highest level – our prime minister – who told his counterpart recently: ‘I will look into it’. In Pakspeak that reads, ‘we will do nothing’.
Back here, the buck is passing furiously like a hot potato from one official to another and one venal department to the next. I am told this entire matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal Quarantine Department which had slept through all this. The National Veterinary Laboratory should have been involved, but became mute overnight. The entire behaviour and attitude in Pakistan was professionally inexcusable and the blood of 7,000 innocent sheep is on their hands. I must confess this sounds more like cuckoo-talk. What are we really talking about? No one that triggered the whole thing off has so far been charged or arrested, and they won’t be.
The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) rolled their eyes and professed ignorance. The Ministry of Commerce feigned total surprise but remembered enough to pass the buck to the Ministry of Food Security & Research, whose Secretary Sahib Bahadur Allah Buksh Lehri said a ‘fresh team of technical experts has been constituted.’ Is the first team exhausted or tainted or both? Mr Lehri obviously won’t answer that one. And so this too shall pass. We know the black sheep but no one will be awarded the punishment they deserve. It is clear that corruption, inefficiency and greed were at the bottom of this scandal, which will have a grave impact on our trade relations with Australia and further damage us globally.
My heart goes out to those innocent sheep, who endured the long ship journey, and days of waiting at ports, finally arriving in Killing Country. I can and do believe the wanton cruelty that we must have exhibited because that is the essence of the people we are now. Pictures and stories of how the large animals are brought down and killed with great cruelty abound but we choose to be indifferent. Our national attitude to animals is well known. Our visionary solution to rabies is to shoot stray dogs! Many die of injuries and pain. Time and again governments have been implored to follow the scientific and humane system adopted elsewhere in the world, but it’s like talking to a large and stupid rock. There is no answer.
Bear and dog fights abound all over the land and gambling is rampant. The animals are maimed, grievously hurt and die painfully but there is no end to the plight of their kind. Bears, teeth extracted, chained and attacked by savage and hungry dogs? Is this sport? Snakes and mongoose spectacles are crowd pullers and even cock-fights draw large crowds. In all these, the ones who suffer are the animals and birds. Hundreds of anguished complaints have resulted in nothing. What kind of demented blood-lust is this? Entertainment for the masses?
Look at the way we transport chickens across our cities? Does anyone ever protest? And our zoos should be a blot on our conscience. The Lahore Zoo broke all sale records last Eid but how fare the animals? Zoos should be abolished and animals put on display in open lands, not confined to narrow, dirty and broken cages. But that won’t happen. For years some of us have written columns, filed reports, and exhorted chief ministers – with no result. We have set a new record this year by issuing 30 hunting permits. Our brethren will be arriving soon, if not already here, and the killing will start. The Houbara Bustard, an endangered species (don’t the wildlife folks have any shame left?) will register another drastic fall? An eyewitness account says that when the our brethren arrive in Rahim Yar Khan, it is like the arrival of extraterrestrials. The night skies are filled with big birds as plane after plane lands. Hundreds of our ‘brothers’. Thousands of grovelling shameless Pakistanis. No government has ever had the moral courage to take a principled stand.