New Zealand’s agriculture minister Damien O’Connor has announced the country will cease the export of livestock by sea following a transition period of up to two years.
“At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny,” O’Connor said.
“This decision will affect some farmers, exporters, and importers and a transition period will enable the sector to adapt.”
Live exports by sea represent approximately 0.2% of New Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue since 2015.
“I acknowledge the economic benefit some farmers get from the trade, but I also note that support of it is not universal within the sector,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) review of live exports, which started in 2019, identified mixed perceptions of the activity.
“There is split opinion about its long-term value and how it fits with the story we want to tell internationally to consumers. In its review submission, the independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), which advises ministers on animal welfare issues, advised that the practice should stop.”
According to O’Connor, improvements had been made to the practice over recent years, but despite everyone’s best efforts, the voyage times to northern hemisphere markets will always pose animal welfare challenges.
“During the transition period, exporters will meet the extra requirements that we introduced following the independent Heron report, which was carried out after the tragic loss of the Gulf Livestock 1 in September 2020,” said O’Connor.