New Zealand has officially banned live animal exports, three years after storms sank a ship loaded with livestock, killing 41 crew members along with 6,000 cattle.
The death of two New Zealanders among the crew of the Gulf Livestock 1, which sank in a September 2020 typhoon, spurred the movement to ban exports of live sheep and cattle.
The animal welfare amendment bill was signed into law last year, but only came into force at the end of April 2023.
‘It protects the reputation of not just our farmers now, but the farmers of the future,’ the country’s agriculture minister, Damien O’Connor, said.
Live exports have long been controversial in Australia and New Zealand, and subject to long-term campaigns by animal rights groups.
New Zealand banned the export of animals for slaughter in 2008 but a legal loophole meant that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pregnant dairy cows could still be exported.
‘This could not have come soon enough,’ said the Greens animal welfare spokesperson, Chlöe Swarbrick. ‘Animals have been suffering in live export for years. The work to align our country’s animal welfare practices with the way we like to think about ourselves continues.’
Chequered Live Animal Exports History
Last year more than 15,000 sheep drowned after a live export ship Badr 1 sank in the Sudanese Red Sea port of Suaki, and in 2020 a capsized vessel killed 14,000 sheep, off the Romanian coast.
In 2021, 3,000 cattle were stranded at sea for three months, leaving many dead, dying, starving or extremely dehydrated, when two vessels, the Karim Allah and the Elbeik carrying Spanish bulls to Turkey were refused permission to dock on health grounds. The animals that survived the sea crossing were eventually slaughtered..
‘New Zealand’s remoteness means animals are at sea for extended periods, heightening their susceptibility to heat stress and other welfare-associated risks,’ O’Connor said. ‘Despite any regulatory measures we could put in place, the voyage times and the journey through the tropics to the northern hemisphere markets will always impose challenges.’
All of the country’s live animal exports by sea stopped on 30 April. In 2021 New Zealand exported 134,722 cattle, all for breeding purposes and live exports represented about 0.6 per cent of primary sector exports. The live animal exports were mainly for building herds in trading partners like China and farmers were given two years to transition out of the business.
The opposition National party opposed the bill, saying it was a ‘disproportionate’ and could reduce gross domestic product by up to $472m.
In 2020, Britain announced plans to ban live animal exports from England and Wales, but that plan has not yet been brought into force.
In Australia, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, recently reaffirmed his government’s commitment to ending live animal exports, but said it would not be phased out before 2025.