Weekend live cow shipment sparks calls for moratorium as review continues

Approval has been given for the shipment of 5,400 cows to China.
Approval has been given for the shipment of 5,400 cows to China. Photo credit: Getty

There are calls for the export of live cattle to be put on hold while a Government review of the practice is carried out.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has come under fire after approving the live export of 5,400 cows from Napier to China on Sunday.

A review of live exports was ordered by Agriculture Minister, Damien O'Connor, after an ABC News report on the Sri Lankan dairy scheme in April. 

It involved the shipping of 2,000 New Zealand cows to Sri Lanka and was described as a 'human and animal welfare disaster'.

Animal welfare group SAFE wants live cattle exports stopped while the review is underway.

SAFE Head of Campaigns Marianne Macdonald said the Government needed to take the review more seriously.   

"Despite the suffering of animals prompting a review on the live export trade, MPI is still approving applications to export live animals," she said.

"All live export applications should have been immediately put on hold pending the results of the review,"  said Macdonald.

MPI said the latest live cattle export had been through tough animal welfare requirements.

Director of animal welfare Dr Chris Rodwell told Stuff that 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."

Damien O'Connor told Newshub earlier that the continued export of cattle could 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.

Damien O'Connor ordered a review of live cattle exports.
Damien O'Connor ordered a review of live cattle exports. Photo credit: Newshub

"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."

Cabinet has been updated about an MPI review of the live cattle trade said the matter will go out for cross-party consultation, before going to the Cabinet Economic Development Committee for consideration.