New Zealand will ban live animal exports from April, two years after a hurricane sank a livestock ship, killing 41 crew members and 6,000 cattle.
The death of two New Zealanders aboard the Gulf Livestock 1, which sank in a September 2020 typhoon, helped galvanise the movement to ban exports of live sheep and cattle.
The animal welfare amendment bill was signed into law on Thursday, with the government saying it would protect New Zealand's reputation as consumers become more ethically conscious. The agriculture minister, Damien O Connor, said that it protects the reputation of not only our farmers but the farmers of the future.
Live exports in Australia and New Zealand have been controversial and subject to long-term campaigns by animal rights groups. When they go wrong, they can result in thousands of animals drowning.
More than 15,000 sheep drowned after a live export ship in Sudan sank, and a capsize killed 14,000 sheep in 2020. In 2021, 3,000 cattle were left at sea for three months, leaving many dead, dying, starving or extremely dehydrated.
Because New Zealand is so remote, even a best-case scenario journey is often arduous for animals.
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.
The voyage times and the journey through the tropics to the northern hemisphere will always impose challenges, despite any regulatory measures we could put in place. All of the country s livestock exports by sea will stop on April 30th, 2023. New Zealand exported 134,722 cattle last year, and live exports represented about 0.6% of primary sector exports. New Zealand only exports animals for breeding, not slaughter.
The Green Party and animal rights activists welcomed the move. This may not have come soon enough, said Chl e Swarbrick, Greens animal welfare spokesperson. Live animals have been suffering from live export for a long time. The opposition National Party opposed the bill, saying it was a disproportionate and ideological response to the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 stock ship. They argue that the move to end live exports could reduce gross domestic product by up to $472 m.
In 2020, Britain announced plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from England and Wales, but that plan has not yet been implemented.
In Australia, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, reaffirmed his government's commitment to ending the trade, but said it would not be phased out before 2025.