Farmers advocate claims exporting live animals gives them 'a life, a future' rather than going straight to meatworks

A farming advocate has questioned the ban on exporting livestock saying many young bobby calves will head straight to the meatworks instead. 

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced the ban in April last year, which he said would protect New Zealand's reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards.

The ban kicks in on April 30, 2023 - but livestock exports by air will still be allowed due to shorter travel times.

The Country executive producer Rowena Duncum told AM on Monday there is a mixed response to the ban. 

"The industry's pretty divided over it. There are a lot of farmers who are glad the ban is coming into effect because they are worried about the damage to New Zealand's reputation," Duncum told AM Early host Nicky Styris.

"But then there's also the farmers whose business really does revolve around this practice. So they have had a bit of a transition period, but it will be really challenging because there just simply isn't a place for these animals to go and when we're not supplying these animals overseas, another country will happily pick up that tab."

Duncum said once the ban kicks in, there will be no place for the animals as there isn't a market for them currently. 

"Our works processing is really under the pump as well, so there isn't the capacity to be able to process those animals," she said. 

As a result, young animals will head straight to the meatworks instead, Duncum said.

"So a lot of them will just go to the meatworks as bobby calves, as four-day-old baby calves. That's always been the toss-up as they actually have had a life, a future when they are going overseas," she said. 

"Yes, it's a slow boat to China, quite literally, but otherwise, they will be going for a lot of them, processing at four-day-old bobby calves."

One of the reasons the ban is coming into place is because of the sinking of Gulf Livestock One in 2020. 

The livestock carrier went missing in the East China Sea in early September 2020 after leaving Napier bound for China.

Forty-three crew members were on board - including two New Zealanders - when the ship was lost. It was also carrying almost 6000 cattle.

Animal rights group SAFE has long called for a permanent ban on live cattle exports, citing cruelty to the animals.

"We're seriously concerned about what will happen to these animals in the destination country, and these recommendations won't change that," SAFE's chief executive Debra Ashton said in October 2020.