Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has made the extraordinary claim his new live export regime is working, despite the brutal killing of almost 10,000 WA sheep in Pakistan.

Senator Ludwig's department has launched an investigation into the saga surrounding a shipment of 22,000 sheep sent first to Bahrain then diverted to Karachi.

It emerged this week that thousands of the animals had been stabbed and clubbed before being buried alive after being declared unfit for human consumption by the Pakistanis.

Perth-based exporter Wellard said the way some of the animals were culled was appalling.

The slaughter was halted only after the exporter got a court injunction while independent veterinary tests were carried out.

Senator Ludwig, who infuriated farmers last year when he imposed a long ban on the export of live cattle to Indonesia in the wake of cruelty complaints, said it was clear the exporter had "lost control of the sheep" in Pakistan.

He insisted the Government's new supply chain assurance system aimed at minimising animal cruelty was working, regardless of what happened in Pakistan.

"It does work," he said. "With the control system in place what you do have is where there is an appalling circumstance like this, the regulator can investigate that, can hold the exporter to account."

But many of Senator Ludwig's Labor colleagues have raised concerns about the minister's handling of the live trade issue.

Yesterday, Julia Gillard announced that former Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe had been named the new secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The appointment is widely seen as an attempt by the Prime Minister to parachute a seasoned headkicker into the portfolio to sort out the live trade mess.

Many believe Pakistan ordered the sheep be culled partly as a result of "loss of face".

There was a storm of local media reports after the sheep arrived highlighting that the animals had been refused entry to Bahrain.

Pakistani newspapers reported yesterday that many of the estimated 8000 sheep that had been killed and buried had been dug up the next day and sold to local butchers.

The West Australian

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