14 Apr 2023

Last live export ship set to depart as ban comes into effect

9:48 am on 14 April 2023
Organic Jersey cow on a Rongotea farm.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

With exports of live animals by sea coming to an end this month - some in the industry are heading across the Tasman to work in the trade there.

New Zealand has been exporting cattle to China for years in a bid to boost its breeding stock - but in 2021 the government announced live exports by sea would be banned following a review of the practice.

The industry had a two-year phase-out period with the ban coming into force at the end of April 2023.

The last shipment is set to leave Napier next week with approval to take 5600 cattle to China.

Live Export New Zealand chief executive Mark Willis said it has been a sad wind-down for an industry which was working to an incredibly high standard of animal welfare.

"Animal welfare standards now well exceed international best practice. We've worked collaboratively with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to develop a superior set of standards to ensure that animals experience the highest levels of care during export."

Willis said a lot of people were disappointed by the ban with many left without work.

"Obviously lots of companies are just winding down. Their core business has disappeared , some are heading to Australia to work there because the trade still exists there and others have just found other work."

Despite the ban there was hope that could change, Willis said.

"At this stage we have support from the opposition being National and ACT who have been speaking positively about reversing the ban.

"So we'll continue to exist until we at least get through the next election cycle, and we'll reassess from there."

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor has stood by the original decision often saying Cabinet made the right choice for New Zealand and its reputation.

Animal welfare groups and animal rights activists have welcomed the ban, SAFE continues its push to get live exports of animals by air banned as well.

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