As of 30 April 2023, cattle, sheep, deer and goats can no longer be exported by sea. This is a historic moment for animal welfare in New Zealand. New Zealand is the first country to completely ban the export of livestock by sea, but we will not be the last. Australia is implementing a ban on the export of live sheep, and in Europe the live export of animals is increasingly under scrutiny.
We know that New Zealanders are appalled by live exports and we are thrilled the government have listened to the experts, scientific evidence and the general public.
High profile disasters have stoked public opposition to live export. Perhaps most notable was the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 ship in 20202, which was carrying 6,000 pregnant cattle and 43 crew when it capsized in the East China Sea. The reality is, however, that live export is associated with severe welfare harms, even when the journey is considered successful.
Cattle exported for breeding purposes are typically pregnant. These vulnerable animals are subjected to many welfare challenges before and during their journey, which can take weeks or even months.
Our animals have suffered during live export from heat stress, injury, disease, overcrowding, motion sickness, changes in feed, loud noises, and unsanitary environmental conditions. Once the exported livestock reach their port of destination, the animals are outside the control of New Zealand laws and regulations, meaning we have no control over their treatment from that point on.
The last live export shipment left Timaru in April with approval to take thousands of cattle to China. We are devastated for these animals but we are relieved that no more animals will be subjected to these journeys. These cattle, deer, sheep and goats will now remain in New Zealand, where they have greater protections under New Zealand’s animal welfare laws and can be monitored by appropriate authorities.
Those who profit from the livestock export industry continue to lobby for the ban to be overturned and propose increased regulation of live export as an alternative. We at SPCA oppose this proposal. If it were possible to fix the many welfare issues associated with live export through increased regulation, we call on the industry to explain why they have not already done so in the many decades that live export has been under scrutiny.
Worryingly, political parties National and Act have announced that they plan to overturn the ban if they are voted as majority the upcoming election. We advocate that any future government stand by the decision to ban live export. Scientific evidence and submissions from independent veterinarians to the Select Committee were clear that the only option to protect animal welfare, and the reputation of New Zealand, is to permanently end the live export of farmed animals by sea.
This ban on the export of farmed animals by sea is the right decision for our animals, our people and our economy.
You can read more about the advocacy journey for live exports here.