Federated Farmers rejects 'treason' call over cow exports to China

Cows (file)
Animal rights groups want the trade stopped (file)

Federated Farmers is confident a Saudi businessman will meet livestock exporter criteria for transporting more than 5000 cows to China.

Sheik Hamood Al-Ali Al-Khalaf's ship Awassi Express is on its way to Napier to pick up the livestock, despite the fact he has a chequered past with animal welfare.

Animal rights group SAFE said there was no guarantee how the animals would be treated once in China.

"They will be slaughtered, for instance, without stunning as is required in New Zealand."

But Federated Farmers says people are overreacting.

"In the last decade-and-a-half we've been doing it pretty well - obviously there are good systems in place," says spokesman Andrew Hoggard.

"We've just got to make sure whether this carrier has done this route before or not. To me, that would be the thing to check out - that this carrier upholds those high standards.

Mr Hoggard says our cattle aren't bred for Chinese farming styles, or their climate.

"They're doing a very different farm system to us, which is primarily pasture-based. They're buying cows off us - we're probably the wrong people to be buying cows off for their farm system."

Mr Al-Khalaf was at the centre of the long-running controversy over the export of 900 pregnant ewes to his Saudi Arabian farm two years ago.

"It's economic treason," said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. "There's no shortcut through what they're trying to do here... we're just wantonly making competition for ourselves."

Labour's primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor also said it would hurt Kiwi farmers.

"If we're selling our best genetics to the Chinese, then that makes it harder for us to compete in that Chinese market."

But Mr Hoggard says if the Chinese aren't as good at farming as Kiwis, it won't matter.

"There's an assumption that's it's all about the cows. The reality is you could give a top farmer some pretty poor cows, and he'd still probably do better production than the average. There's a big human component to it."