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Stay order saves cows, for now

R. Balaji

CHENNAI, Sept. 19

A STAY order reportedly obtained by some animal rights activities from a court has earned a last-minute reprieve for 88 imported cattle that were to be "put to sleep" at the quarantine station here.

According to reliable sources, these 88 cows were part of a consignment of 201 Holstein-Friesian and Jersey animals that were imported by the Andhra Pradesh Government under a Government of India livestock development programme, from Australia.

Since they landed in Chennai in April last, the cows have been at the quarantine station in Chennai.

According to the sources, random samples from the animals were sent to the High Risk Animal Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal for testing under quarantine procedures.

The laboratory sent a report stating that more than 60 per cent of the samples were infected with BVD (bovine viral diarrhoea).

Following this, the Andhra Pradesh Government officials referred the matter to the Paris-based OIE (Official International Epizootics), which suggested that the samples be sent to two international laboratories, one in the UK and the other in Canada, for further testing.

In the meanwhile, according to the sources, the Australian authorities, who handled the export of these animals, themselves sent in a detailed protocol of all tests done on the animals to show that they were diseases-free.

Further, samples from all the animals were sent to the laboratory based in Weybridge, UK, as suggested by the OIE, where the tests reportedly showed that the animals were free of the disease.

The samples were collected by independent officials, first a random sampling, and subsequently from all the animals. The Andhra Pradesh Government officials also produced scientific papers to show that BVD was not an exotic disease, and hence, the animals need not be kept in quarantine any longer.

However, the sources said that later the Bhopal institute was of the opinion that the cows might be suffering from another disease - malignant catarrhal fever.

The sources said that the Union Government directed that 88 animals were to be put to sleep, for which pits were dug at the quarantine station here, when the animal rights activists, who also staged a demonstration outside the station, obtained a stay order.

The Union Government also wanted 36 cattle to be kept under observation and 73 to be removed to another holding site.

The sources alleged that three of the cows died due to lack of basic facilities because the animals were confined in the quarantine station beyond the 21-day mandatory confinement period.

The Andhra Pradesh Government had imported these cows following a tender, after only New Zealand and Australia were short-listed as countries from which these cows could be imported as per Union Government guidelines.

Each cow cost about Australian $ 3,000 and they have been insured for the value, according to the sources.

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