18 Apr 2023

Animal welfare group calls for transparency on export of live animals by air

12:18 pm on 18 April 2023
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Goats were among animals sent overseas last year. File pic Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Animal welfare group SAFE is calling for more transparency on the exporting of live animals by air.

This week the last live export shipment by sea will leave New Zealand, with a ban of the practice coming into force, but millions of animals are exported by air each year.

Last year more than 2000 goats and 3.4 million day-old chicks were sent offshore by plane.

SAFE's Debra Ashton said if New Zealand wanted to be seen as a world leader in animal welfare it needed to ban all exports of live animals.

"Like live exports by sea, there are still issues with live exports by air and that's really due to the destinations that these animals are being flown to.

"The majority of these animals are still being sent to China and as we know, China's animal welfare legislation falls severely short of ours, and that means the animals are likely to be raised in cruel conditions and slaughtered in ways that could be seen as illegal in this country."

Not all animals being exported by air were solely for breeding purposes, she said.

"The day-old chicks are going onto farms to lay eggs or to be raised for meat and in China there is no specific legislation for poultry, which is a major concern."

Ashton said for live exports by sea, voyage reports were published showing what conditions were like and the mortality rate - but no such reports have been made public for live exports by air.

"We have no idea what the conditions are like for these animals on the flights or how many are dying on the way, so we'd like to see more transparency around that."

RNZ has asked the Ministry for Primary Industries whether there were reports on air exports.

Minister for Agriculture Damien O'Connor has been approached for comment on the government's approach to live air exports.

This story has been corrected to remove a reference to live cattle being sent overseas.

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