The Government is considering putting a ban on the live export of cattle, with concerns it could be causing damage to New Zealand's brand.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said a conditional ban on the live export of cattle was one of several options being considered as part of a review of the trade in live animals.
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Cabinet has been updated about an MPI review of the trade and the matter will go out for cross-party consultation, before going to the Cabinet Economic Development Committee for consideration in late July.
O'Connor said the continued export of cattle may be a risk to New Zealand's brand, and the time had come to rethink the area and consider whether it's something that fits within the values of New Zealand.
"When animals leave New Zealand we set conditions that are considered world-class by veterinarians," he said.
"But there have been incidents over the last few years that highlight the fact that once animals leave New Zealand we have very limited ability to ensure their wellbeing when they reach their destination," said O'Connor.
"That's something that's not acceptable to me and I know it's not acceptable to a large number of New Zealanders."
He said consumers increasingly care about where their food comes from, and animal welfare standards are a growing focus of consumers around the world.
"We need to ensure we have the highest level of animal welfare standards. Our economic well-being depends on it."
The options presented in the review range from tightening up the existing standards to absolute or conditional prohibition on some or all parts of this trade.
"It's a complex area and there are a number of factors Cabinet needs to consider, including public expectation, international trade commitments and the impacts on rural New Zealand."
He said while live exports were a source of income to rural communities with almost $30 million in cattle exports alone last year, that had been dropping in recent years.
Options being considered:
Within the existing regulations:
1. Continuous improvement under current regulatory settings
2. Targeted interventions, development of new operational policy and continuous improvement
3. Collaborative programmes to build the capacity and capability at the destinations and/or encourage alternative exports
Possible changes Under the Animal Welfare Act:
1. Absolute prohibition on exporting livestock
2. Conditional prohibition on exporting livestock
Find out more details about the current laws covering the export of live animals here