The Government’s decision to ban live exports is “surprising”, says Federated Farmers animal welfare spokesperson Wayne Langford.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the ban last month, stating that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years. Live exports are worth around $250 million in export receipts.
“The fact is, once animals leave New Zealand by sea we have very limited ability to ensure their wellbeing before they reach their destination,” says O’Connor.
“That is an unacceptable risk to New Zealand's reputation. We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny.
“I acknowledge the economic benefit some farmers get from the trade, but I also note that support of it is not universal within the sector.
“I’ve asked MPI to provide further advice on improvements to animal welfare during the phase out.”
Spotlight on welfare
Wayne reiterates that famers care deeply about animal welfare.
“The government has seen fit to bring in this ban but Federated Farmers has no information about any breaches of the high standards relating to livestock exports.
"Those farmers who support livestock exports would point out our trade in this sector operates to some of the highest animal welfare standards anywhere – standards that were further bolstered after last year’s Heron Report.”
The Heron Report was carried out after the tragic loss of the Gulf Livestock in September 2020. It led to requirements including focused maritime inspection of livestock carrier ships entering New Zealand and restricting stocking density on vessels to 90 per cent of former limits.
It also resulted in increased requirements for voyage reporting, including daily veterinary reports during voyages and increased minimum fodder requirements that ensure at least 20 per cent of feed is available for unplanned delays during the voyage.
"There is a contractual relationship with the companies receiving livestock from New Zealand at the export destination to have minimum standards in place, and these are monitored for 30 days after arrival of the animals," says Wayne.
"But it is true that after then, New Zealand has no control over the future welfare of those animals.
"The one encouraging aspect of the government’s announcement is the transition period of up to two years to enable those farmers with commitments in place to honour those commitments, and consider their options once live exports are off the table.”
Beef + Lamb NZ did not respond for comment.