17 Oct 2023

Ban on live animal exports likely to be overturned by new government

5:03 pm on 17 October 2023

Live animal exports are expected to resume next year, under a National government. Photo: Supplied / Summer Jayne / Taranaki Animal Save

Live animal exports by sea are expected to resume after a National government forms, but it could be a year before the first shipment leaves.

For years, New Zealand exported cattle to China to help build their dairy herd, with nearly 135,000 cattle exported in 2021.

In April, Labour banned livestock exports, after an independent review found they could damage New Zealand's reputation regarding animal welfare.

National promised it would restart live exports, with 'gold standard' rules to protect animal welfare and safety.

Livestock Export New Zealand chairperson Mark Willis said the industry had been working on animal welfare rules for a while.

"Since Labour announced the ban (in September 2022), the industry has been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries on a weekly basis to improve welfare standards.

"A lot of changes were made during that transition period, which will underpin the gold standard but there's still a bit more work to do."

Willis said the major concern New Zealanders had was what happened on the live export vessels.

"We've done a lot of work on that, and the other concern is what happens to the animals when they arrive in the market, so we need to have a good discussion around how we can provide that information back so that peoples fears that animal welfare isn't at the forefront are alleviated," Willis said.

The industry was looking forward to working with the new government, he said.

"We're hopeful that with the changes we've made, we can work with MPI and ministers to get some legislation put forward in the first half of next year and potentially the industry can reopen in the second half of next year."

Work to reinstate relationships with importers in China would also be needed, Willis said.

"When our ban came into force, they had to source more cattle from South America and we've also seen more business go to Australia, so I suppose we would have to ask China if they'll take us back, but we're pretty hopeful that they will."

In April, Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa managing director Helen Beattie said there would need to be independent oversight to protect the welfare of animals on long journeys.

"At the moment, the vast majority of boats are not purpose-built so they have no effluent system, there's no way to manage the temperature and humidity to go across the equator, the space allowances are really not large enough," Beattie said.

She was concerned the feed and water system was manual, so when a crew was locked down in their cabins during a typhoon, animals could not be fed, she said.

"It's pretty clear that the way it has been done is unacceptable - the question remains about whether or not National's proposal is actually feasible," Beattie said.

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