Official- Sheep unlikely to be slaughtered at sea

Thursday, October 9, 2003

SYDNEY, Australia -- Some 50,000 Australian sheep, stranded in the Persian Gulf since Saudi Arabia rejected them as diseased, will be brought home rather than slaughtered, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday.

Howard said the his government was trying to find a Middle Eastern country that would accept the sheep, which have been at sea on the MV Como Express since Aug. 6.

Last month Saudi Arabia refused to let the ship dock, claiming the animals were infected with a nonfatal, but contagious condition called "scabby mouth."

The long-running saga has damaged Australia's lucrative international livestock trade. It exports $125 million worth of live animals each year, mostly to countries that require livestock slaughtered according to Islamic standards.

Under the standards, meat is acceptable or "halal" if it is killed by a Muslim who slits its jugular vein and drains all blood from the carcass.

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