Livestock exporter Wellard yesterday said the veterinary department in Pakistan had issued orders that prevented Australian sheep exported to Pakistan two weeks ago from entering the consumer supply chain and must be euthanised.
This month, the Ocean Drover, owned by Wellard, unloaded sheep in Pakistan, after being at sea for two weeks following rejection from Bahraini authorities because they were infected with the contagious viral disease, scabby mouth.
Wellard said the new orders conflict with previous advice from Pakistani authorities that tests taken from the sheep were still being tested or confirmed the sheep were disease free.
The Age understands slaughter had begun with ''several hundred'' already killed, but has now stopped as the company, industry and the Australian government work to stop the cull while Pakistan's government conducts disease tests.
''We are not sure what is going on as the sheep are healthy,'' Wellard managing director Mauro Balzarini said.
''The sheep were farmed for human consumption, so it is disappointing that some healthy sheep are being euthanised when they are absolutely safe to be processed.''
The new revelations have been seized on by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon as further evidence the industry should be shut down.
''Either [Agriculture] minister Ludwig has no idea about the fate of these 21,000 sheep or he is deliberately staying tight-lipped,'' Senator Rhiannon said.
Senator Joe Ludwig said the Greens were scaremongering and were putting out media statements before contacting his office or industry.
''The Greens want the trade ended and will sabotage it at whatever opportunity they get.''
The sheep had been approved for arrival in Pakistan by local and Australian authorities - Australia has the strictest export conditions in the world.
An agriculture department spokesman said it was confident the sheep delivered to Pakistan were healthy on leaving Australia.