Last year the Government announced a ban on the practice, giving those financially impacted by the decision two years to adapt to the change. But despite this, the so-called ‘wind-down’ period has actually seen more animals being exported by sea than ever before, compromising the welfare of hundreds of thousands of animals.
What progress has been made?
While many may believe the ban is a done deal, it still needs to pass through Parliament.
Following last year’s announcement, the ban was progressed via the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, which attracted over 600 submissions that were overwhelmingly supportive of the illegalisation of live exports by sea. However, disappointingly, a Select Committee considering the Bill failed to reach an agreement on whether the ban should progress. As the Bill has the support of Government, it will still likely pass through Parliament. But the Select Committee’s inability to reach a decision has opened the door for the ban to be reconsidered in future.
What’s happening now?
We are now halfway through the two-year ‘wind-down’ period for exporters, with the ban due to come into force on 30 April 2023. While we should be seeing a reduction in the number of animals being exported by sea, frustratingly, the number of cows being shipped from New Zealand has drastically increased during this time. Statistics from the Ministry for Primary Industries show that 134,722 cows were exported from Aotearoa last year, compared with 109,921 in 2020 and 39,269 in 2019.
Looking at the facts
Those who profit from the livestock export industry are lobbying to overturn the proposed ban, instead offering increased regulation as an alternative.
Scientific evidence and submissions from independent veterinarians to the Select Committee clearly show 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.
Our animals suffer during live export. They suffer from heat stress, injury, disease, crowding, motion sickness, changes in feed and poor environmental conditions. If it were possible to fix these issues through increased regulation, SPCA questions why it has not been done already, when live export has been under scrutiny for decades.
The bobby calf argument
The livestock export industry has also been using the emotive topic of bobby calves to argue against a ban on live export. They argue that the animals that would have been exported will now be killed when just days old, resulting in a different kind of reputational risk. However, SPCA has more confidence in our farmers; we are encouraged by industry efforts to treat all animals in the production chain with care and respect and to find alternative ways of managing bobby calves.
We also note that regulations around the handling of young calves were introduced in 2016, strengthening welfare protections. But animals are no longer protected by New Zealand’s laws once they leave our shores, and most are sent to countries with lower animal welfare standards or no legal protection for animals at all.
What SPCA is calling for
Every livestock export ship represents a reputational risk to New Zealand’s exports and our reputation as a country with high animal welfare standards. SPCA is calling on MPs to listen to the experts, the science and the New Zealand public, and vote in support of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill to put an end to the live export of farmed animals by sea.
When the ban was announced in April 2021, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor stated “we must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny”.
SPCA agrees - the decision to ban the export of farmed animals by sea is the right one for our animals, our people and our economy. SPCA’s call follows a National Day of Action, which included independently organised protests against live exports throughout the country.
For more information on live exports, read SPCA’s submission to the Primary Production Select Committee here.