Protest against live cattle export in Napier

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The biggest live cattle export in two years has animal advocates scratching their heads.

Protesters will gather at Napier Port today as more than 5000 cows are loaded onto a ship headed for China.

Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) spokesperson Mona Oliver says the timing is unusual.

"This approval has happened while the Government has said they're reviewing live exports. So by approving this live shipment, they're completely undermining the Government's review."

More than 15,000 people have signed a petition against the export.

A review of live exports was ordered by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor in April after reports cows exported to Sri Lanka were dying in their hundreds.

SAFE says a small but symbolic group of activists will be present at Sunday's departure.

"We're expecting probably about 30 people who want to come and represent the 15,000 people who have signed our petition."

The protest begins at midday.

"The director-general of Ministry for Primary Industries could have refused this shipment," said Oliver. "He needs to halt all live exports of farmed animals while the Government is reviewing the trade."

MPI director of animal welfare Dr Chris Rodwell told Stuff he understood the issue of live animal exports was one people felt strongly about.

"The Agriculture Minister has asked us to review the process of live animal exports and has clearly signalled that a number of options are being considered, including a conditional ban on the process," he said.

"In the meantime, any applications to export must meet tough requirements around the welfare of animals, and our focus is firmly on ensuring exported animals are well cared for, before, during and after export."