24 Mar 2009

Exporter would welcome live sheep trade resumption

4:10 pm on 24 March 2009

An Australian-based live sheep exporter says he would welcome an end to the moratorium on live sheep exports from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says he would certainly consider resuming live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia as long as strict animal welfare conditions were met.

George Assif, whose company has farming interests in New Zealand, says he successfully exported more than five million sheep from Napier and Timaru for almost 20 years before the trade was halted in 2004.

He says if the National Government gave the go ahead for exports to Saudi Arabia to resume, his company would be geared up very quickly to organise a shipment.

George Assif says the export of live sheep from Australia was one of the few growth industries last year.

His company exports about one million live sheep and 100,000 cattle each year from Australia, he says, and has a good animal welfare record.

However, any possibilty of the six-year moratorium being ended has angered the Green Party.

The party's animal welfare spokesperson Sue Kedgley questions why the Government would even consider resuming the trade.

She describes the trade cruel, because the animals are transported in overcrowded conditions, suffering trauma and outbreaks of disease.

Ms Kedgley says there is a global campaign against live exports, so resuming the trade would harm New Zealand's reputation.