Animal Rights group SAFE is calling for a ban on live exports as a livestock carrier is set to collect thousands of cows from Napier this week.
The ship Dareen is scheduled to arrive in Napier on Friday, just days after another livestock carrier, Yangtze Harmony, collected a consignment of cows from Port Taranaki.
But SAFE says the Government needs to reexamine the laws around live exports, particularly in the wake of an investigation launched by authorities in Australia recently after footage emerged of inhumane slaughter of Australian cows in Indonesia.
"Tens of thousands of cows have been exported from New Zealand to destination countries with no laws protecting the way they are treated once there," SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said on Thursday.
"We're particularly concerned over the methods that will be used when they are slaughtered. They will likely still be conscious when their throats are cut."
But Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says no cows exported from New Zealand would be killed.
"New Zealand doesn't export animals for slaughter, the animals we export are used for breeding purposes to help develop the dairy and livestock industries in receiving countries," O'Connor told Newshub on Thursday.
"They are high-value animals. The importers have made a significant commercial investment in these cows, so it is in their interests to ensure they are well cared for and maintained in excellent condition."
O'Connor said a number of the cattle exported this week "would likely have gone to slaughter" locally in any case.
"The ability for farmers to export at this time relieves pressure from a shortage of feed as a result of a major drought which is still affecting a lot of farmers around New Zealand."
O'Connor said strict requirements had to be met in order for animals to be exported live from the country.
"The Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] must be satisfied with the facilities and conditions on the vessel and no export will go ahead until the vessel is thoroughly inspected by MPI vets."
But Macdonald said there is no way of knowing how the animals are treated once they arrive in their destination countries.
"Given the growing body of international evidence of the cruelty associated with live export, it’s clear that the trade must be banned," she said.
A review is currently underway into live animal exports, but O'Connor said a decision had been delayed due to COVID-19.
"Until the outcomes of the review are determined, MPI will continue to consider applications for the export of cattle, deer, goats and sheep (livestock) under the current law."