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Sheep clubbed, buried alive
The sheep at a farm lot in Bin Qaisim, 50km southwest of Karachi. Picture: AFP

Thousands of WA sheep have been brutally slaughtered in Pakistan, with some said to have been stabbed, clubbed and buried alive.

Federal agriculture officials confirmed yesterday they had launched a major investigation into a shipment of 22,000 sheep sent to the Middle East this month.

The animals were first sent to Bahrain but were barred entry after claims some were infected with scabby mouth. The ship was diverted to Karachi.

Soon after arriving in Pakistan health officials said some animals were infected with salmonella and ordered the entire consignment be destroyed. About 9000 were slaughtered before Australian exporter Wellard got a court injunction halting the killing.

A Pakistani report said that many sheep had been "executed" in a horrific manner, with some stabbed, then dumped while still twitching and buried alive.

Wellard managing director Stephen Meerwald was quoted as saying he had not been able to eat or sleep since seeing gruesome footage of the animals being destroyed. "Regardless of whether they were healthy or not, the way they were killed or buried alive is neither humane nor Islamic," he said.

It is understood Wellard sent officials to Pakistan to try to stop the slaughter, but they spent much of their time in Karachi in lockdown as local anger over the YouTube video mocking the Prophet Mohammed boiled over.

_The West Australian _has been told some of the Wellard team were ordered away at gunpoint from the feedlot where the sheep were being held.

It is believed the Pakistanis first brought in professionals to begin killing the animals with lethal injections, but then allowed untrained butchers to dispatch most. Wellard confirmed yesterday it was concerned about the slaughter methods, saying they were inconsistent with its animal welfare ethos.

It hopes that a Pakistani court will order today that the cull order be overturned.

The Federal Government briefly froze the issuing of all new live sheep export licences, sparking concerns among farmers they might not get their animals to market.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry agreed to issue new export permits only after forcing costly new restrictions on companies.

It has been claimed business power plays - rather than animal health issues - were behind the shipment of 22,000 animals being barred from Bahrain and then declared unfit for human consumption in Pakistan.

Wellard insists the animals are fit for human consumption and passed all veterinary tests before leaving Fremantle.