The capsizing of a livestock carrier off the coast of Romania has renewed calls by an animal welfare group for New Zealand to ban the practice of live exports completely.
The Palau-flagged Queen Hind with approximately 14,600 sheep on board capsized on Sunday night after leaving the port of Midia.
Early responders rescued all 22 crew members and at least 32 sheep found swimming nearby.
Coastguards, police and firefighters have been scrambling to try to save the animals still trapped inside the ship. However, most are feared drowned.
In New Zealand, the live export of cattle, sheep, goats and deer for slaughter was banned in 2003, but it is still legal to export these animals for breeding purposes.
The live export trade is currently under review by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said such disasters were an inherent risk in the live export trade.
"All New Zealand can do to avoid a disaster like this is to stop the export of live animals altogether," she said.
She said if a similar incident occurred to a live export ship leaving New Zealand, a rescue effort would be difficult.
"Earlier this month, 3,978 cows were exported from Timaru Port. They would all likely have drowned if that ship had capsized off our coast.
"We banned the export of many animals for slaughter in 2003. Now it's time to end the entire trade for good," said Macdonald.
When ordering the review of exports for slaughter earlier this year, Agriculture Minister, Damien O'Connor told Newshub that the time had come to rethink the practice and consider whether it was something that fitted 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."