Live animal export ban lifts, but animal welfare group wants it reinstated permanently

Gulf Livestock 1.
Gulf Livestock 1. Photo credit: File

A temporary ban on live animal exports lifts today - but the number of animals which can be loaded on a ship will be capped.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has tightened the rules for exporters, who will also need to send daily reports about the conditions on board.

The Gulf Livestock 1 sailed from Napier last month, only to capsize off the coast of Japan when it was sailed into a typhoon during its voyage to China.

It was loaded with nearly 6000 cattle, and 41 people - including two New Zealanders - drowned.

MPI director general Ray Smith said ships departing this country will now have about 10 percent fewer animals on board.

Ships will also need to increase their minimum fodder requirements to ensure that at least 20 percent of the feed is available for unplanned delays, Smith said.

He said the ministry is consulting veterinary scientists to see if that needs to be improved further.

"We've moved quickly following the Heron review to ensure no serious animal welfare issue for the 24,000 cows in pre-export quarantine, which would likely have to be slaughtered if interim measures weren't put in place," Smith said in a statement.

"We want to ensure they are moved safely. It's important to note New Zealand does not export animals for slaughter, but as breeding stock."

The review was led by Mike Heron QC who said the export of livestock is a complex international undertaking involving farmers, exporters, vessel owners and trading partners.

"Our review found that while the system is robust, there are changes that can be made now to boost the assurances MPI receives," he said in a statement.

MPI has yet to release its broader review into the live export trade, which then Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor ordered in June 2019.

Animal Genetics Trade Association spokesperson David Hayman said the decision means there can be export earnings before Christmas, with close to $200 million in contracts set to close between now and December.

Hayman said the first ship will leave early next month.

But Bianka Atlas from the animal welfare group, SAFE, wants to see all live animal exports banned.

"It's important to note that these animals will eventually be slaughtered in their destination, potentially by methods that have been outlawed in New Zealand," she said in a statement.

"We're seriously concerned about what will happen to these animals in the destination country, and these recommendations won't change that."

She said she is worried that once animals reach their destination, they could be slaughtered using methods outlawed in this country.