Auckland's Cornwall Park reverses decision to ship cows to Mongolia

The initial decision to send 11 of the park's heifers overseas received sharp criticism online.
The initial decision to send 11 of the park's heifers overseas received sharp criticism online. Photo credit: Cornwall Park

The Cornwall Park Trust Board has reversed a decision to ship a number of its cows to Mongolia as part of a breeding programme.

The move to send 11 of the Auckland park's heifers received sharp criticism online, with some saying it was "disgusting" the animals would be shipped overseas as live exports.

There were also questions raised over whether the cows would be able to survive in the harsh Mongolian climate.

Animal rights group SAFE said Aucklanders would be shocked to learn the popular park was being used to raise animals that would be involved in the controversial live export trade.

The group said the animals would face a "long, rough journey in cramped, disgusting conditions before arriving at a country with high elevations and cold, dry conditions".

"This is a far different fate from their upbringings in Cornwall Park."

Cornwall Park initially stood by the decision, saying it was proud to participate in the breeding programme and the cows would play a role in helping to raise the standards of people living in remote villages in Mongolia. 

However on Thursday afternoon, park director Michael Ayrton said the trust had changed its mind.

"Our cattle are frequently sold to breeders looking to improve the quality of their herds, and we saw this as an opportunity to help support the sustainable development of a viable domestic beef industry in this remote region," Ayrton said.

"We recognise many people are concerned about various aspects of the live cattle trade from New Zealand, and in light of those concerns we have decided cows from Cornwall Park will no longer be part of any overseas-based breeding programmes.

"Keeping a working farm operating successfully in the heart of Auckland City is a big part of what we do. Once again, we have been reminded of just how many people see Cornwall Park as theirs and feel they have a stake in how it is run."

The issue of live exports has received increasing scrutiny in recent years, particularly after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 last year.

The vessel sank after leaving Napier bound for China with almost 6000 cattle and a crew of 43 - including two New Zealanders - onboard.

The Government introduced a temporary ban on live exports following the tragedy, with stronger regulations put in place when exports were allowed to resume.

A review into the practice was also launched in 2019, looking at options ranging from improving systems to a total ban. A decision on the future of live exports based on that review is expected in the next month or so.