China, Australia could feel impact as New Zealand halts livestock exports by sea over animal welfare concerns
- Live exports by sea have represented around 0.2 per cent of New Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue since 2015, averaging around NZ$60 million (US$42.2 million) per year from 2015-19
- New Zealand said last year it was reviewing live exports when it introduced interim measures following the capsizing of a ship bound for China that killed nearly 6,000 cows and 41 of the 43 crew members
New Zealand said on Wednesday it will stop the export of livestock by sea following a transition period of up to two years, citing animal welfare concerns for a decision that will affect major trading partners including Australia and China.
The ban was welcomed by animal welfare groups, but the peak farming industry body said it was caught by surprise and was unaware of any breaches of standards.
Live exports by sea have represented around 0.2 per cent of New Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue since 2015, averaging around NZ$60 million (US$42.2 million) per year from 2015-19. New Zealand exported 113,285 cattle by sea last year.
“We have not been able to guarantee the safety of these animals at sea and that’s an unacceptable risk for New Zealand,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said, adding that key trading partners were informed of the decision.
“I recognise the importance of our trade relationships with our international partners and we’re committed to working with them as we transition away from the shipment of livestock.”
Simone Clarke, executive director of World Animal Protection New Zealand, said the decision was a “significant moment in our history for animals, one which other governments around the world must now follow”.
However, Wayne Langford, a spokesman for Federated Farmers of New Zealand, said the industry body “has no information about any breaches of the high standards relating to livestock exports”.
O’Connor said despite improvements to processes, the long sea voyages to northern hemisphere markets continued to pose animal welfare challenges.
The ban does not affect live animals that are transported by air, such as race horses.
Opposition lawmaker Mark Cameron, from the libertarian ACT Party, said the decision was emotive, costly and a “kick in the guts” to farmers.
Animal rights group SAFE, which has long sought a ban, welcomed the news. Chief executive Debra Ashton said animals would no longer suffer in countries with lower welfare standards. Still, Ashton said it was worried that hundreds of thousands of cows could still be exported by sea over the next two years and that air exports of animals like baby chickens and eels would continue.
Additional reporting by Associated Press