SPCA joins calls for live export ban, as Govt nears decision on future of trade

The Gulf Livestock 1 sank last year with around 6000 cattle onboard.
The Gulf Livestock 1 sank last year with around 6000 cattle onboard. Photo credit: Vessel Finder

With a decision on the future of live animal exports imminent, the SPCA has joined a chorus of voices calling for the practice to be banned.

A review into live exports was launched in 2019 but a decision on the matter was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, almost two years later, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has provided its final advice to the Agriculture Minister, with a decision expected in the next month or so.

On Thursday, SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said a number of recent incidents around the trade had made it obvious it's time to end it for good. 

"There are a number of recent incidents which have seen thousands of animals die on ships bound for overseas ports, and we've now reached a point where enough is enough," she said.

Midgen and SPCA's chief scientific officer Dr Arnja Dale have sent letters to Ministers urging them to ban live exports.

"Quite simply, we have blood on our hands," Midgen said.

"Cabinet has a responsibility to show that animal welfare is indeed important to our country. It is up to our Government to ensure that animals bred in this country are treated humanely throughout their lives and are not exposed to handling, rearing or slaughter practices that would be contrary to New Zealand's laws and regulations."

Criticism of the practice has increased in recent years, with the issue thrust into the spotlight last year when the Gulf Livestock 1 sank after leaving Napier bound for China.

Forty crew members - including two New Zealanders - and almost 6000 cattle lost their lives when the vessel went down in a storm off the coast of Japan.

Dr Dale says apart from high-profile incidents like the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1, the SPCA is concerned about a number of other factors affecting the welfare of exported animals during and after their journey.

"These include the conditions on the vessel, including stocking densities, heat/cold stress, inadequate ventilation, slurry management, lack of dry lying areas, difficulties inspecting individual animals, lack of daily veterinary reporting, and only deaths being reported rather than the welfare compromise of the animals that do not die on board," she said.

"There are also issues around quarantine, and the lack of control at the destination country after the 30 days of reporting is completed. 

"New Zealanders, including many farmers, have told us that they do not want live exports to continue."

After the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1, the Government temporarily suspended live exports and ordered an independent review to be conducted.

Extra requirements were subsequently put in place for exporters when live exports were allowed to resume.

Those involved in the trade have defended conditions on livestock carriers and insist animals are well looked during the shipping process.