Treated like cattle

Treated like cattle Two years ago, Andhra Pradesh (ap) and West Bengal (wb) imported a herd of pedigree cattle from Australia for a government cattle breeding programme. Since April 28, 2002, the cattle have been quarantined in Chennai. Today, only 102 animals are alive; 116, including calves born in quarantine, have died. Probable cause of death: unsanitary conditions, lack of food and shock.

The Union government's department of animal husbandry and dairying (dahd), which controls the quarantine, had ordered in 2002 that the cattle be sent back to Australia. Reason: blood samples sent to the High Security Animal Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal showed some animals testing positive for bovine viral diarrhoea (bvd) and malignant catarrhal fever (mcf).

Samples were also sent to the Weybridge laboratory in the uk, an international referral laboratory (irl) for bvd designated by the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (oie, after its French name). Their results showed the animals were not infected, though some had antibodies for bvd, implying they were resistant to the disease. The Union government went by the report of its Bhopal laboratory and ordered that the cattle be sent back. Australia refused the animals entry. Another round of testing, and the Union government ordered 87 animals be euthanised, killed.

Gouher Aziz, secretary of an animal rights group called Bharatiya Prani Mithra Sangh in Chennai, then approached the High Court of Madras and obtained a stay order that prevented the deaths. A few months later, the court ordered the release of 46 animals, cleared by both laboratories, to the ap and wb governments.

The Union government appealed this decision in the Supreme Court. It claimed "the direction for release of 46 cattle is highly erroneous, arbitrary and illegal'. For "none of the states/union territories have so far reported the incidence of bvd and mcf. In case these animals are released, both diseases shall have to be reported by India to oie and this will adversely affect the international trade of the country...' Another reason was the ap Livestock Development Agency (aplda) had selected 220 animals, while the Australian quarantine released only 201

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