Shredded ham has been found at one feedlot in Australia’s southwestern territory of Victoria this Thursday, suggesting claims made by Animal Liberation campaigners are true.
Portland police have already arrested one 40-year-old man over the incident and authorities are confident they will make more arrests soon.
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) spokesman Carson Creigh confirmed officers would not issue an export permit until the state government was acquainted with all the facts at the end of November.
AQIS added it would contact the destination countries to inform them of what was known for sure.
Creigh said the sheep would remain at two separate feedlots in Portland while the investigation continued
Animal activists have said they placed pig meat in the animal’s water and food systems at Cape Nelson with intent to taint a shipment to Islamic countries where pork cannot be eaten.
Since the mad cow disease crisis, Australian law has also made it illegal to feed sheep anything that may contain meat.
Members hailed the protest as a victory.
Protest organizer Ralph Hahnheuser told journalists on Thursday: “This is a fantastic result and we are pleased that our protest has worked and the sheep will not be loaded.”
Their protest follows the controversial rejection by Saudi Arabia of 57,000 Australian sheep because of alleged scabby mouth disease in September.
Although Victoria’s chief veterinary officer Hugh Millar says the ham has posed no danger to the sheep’s health and that they are perfectly healthy to eat as it will only take a few days for the animals to digest and dissolve the protein.
“This is a fantastic result and we are pleased that our protest has worked and the sheep will not be loaded.”
However, Millar’s reassuring comments may not be enough for some Islamic countries.
Yasir Sulayman, president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said exporters would need to contact individual countries to ask about Halal meat requirements.
“Depending on where the shipment is going, there may be different views held by different Muslim schools of thought – it may range from three to 40 days” before the sheep can be slaughtered, Sulayman said.
Halal meat, as prescribed by Muslim religious law, must be from an animal that is not carnivorous, healthy and killed in a specific way, with its blood drained away.