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SPCA celebrates historic decision to ban live exports following decades-long campaign

14 April 2021
SPCA celebrates historic decision to ban live exports following decades-long campaign

SPCA is delighted at the Government’s announcement of a total ban on the live export of farmed animals and congratulates Cabinet on their decision.

SPCA would have strongly preferred a shorter transition period, however, appreciates the delicate and difficult balance between animal welfare and the economic and contractual considerations of those farmers and exporters involved in the trade.

Since 1985 when the live export trade started up again, SPCA has actively advocated and worked tirelessly behind the scenes for a total ban on the live export of farmed animals for slaughter or breeding purposes. Alongside a multitude of meetings on the issue, New Zealand’s largest animal welfare charity has submitted to the Government on this issue multiple times, most recently in January 2020 as part of the review of live export from New Zealand and in September as part of the Heron review commissioned after the Gulf Livestock tragedy.

In March this year, SPCA wrote directly to all Government Ministers to push for a complete ban on live export. Auckland Council, Cornwall Park Trust and all associated Councillors, CEO’s, Mayors and relevant Ministerswere also directly contacted earlier this month in relation to their recent live export admissions.

SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen says media coverage of numerous disasters in which exported animals have suffered or been killed, has resulted in overwhelming public support for the ban of live exports.

“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. It’s an historic moment for animal welfare in New Zealand,” she says.

“Enough is enough, and we are relieved that those elected to represent us, have done the right thing. Common sense has prevailed.”

The sheer volume of public outcry in response to last year’s catastrophic sinking of Gulf Livestock 1, which led to the death of 6,000 cattle and 42 crew members, clearly demonstrated the strong opposition of the New Zealand public to this practice. Given the frequency of these disasters, and a recent investigation revealing ships carrying live animals are at least twice as likely to suffer a ‘total loss’ as compared to standard cargo vessels, it could not be claimed that these disasters were unforeseen or uncommon.

In addition to high-profile catastrophic events, SPCA has repeatedly raised concerns about the many factors that impact the welfare of exported animals before, during and after their journey. These include the conditions on the vessel, the lack of control over their treatment at the destination country and the many changes in environment that they are forced to undergo over several weeks or months that cause fear and anxiety.

Live export exposes animals to a range of major stressors, such as disease, heat stress, high stocking density, high ammonia levels, noise, motion sickness and changes in lighting patterns, to name but a few. The longer and more complex the journey, the greater the risk of welfare harms to the animals.

Ms Midgen says animals exported for breeding purposes are often heavily pregnant during transport and are highly vulnerable animals who suffer cramped conditions without ready access to comfortable resting areas, due to the slurry and lack of bedding, andwithout easy access to good quality food and clean water.

“Live export is unacceptable when alternatives, such as transport of semen are already available and commercially viable,” she says.

With this historic decision, the Government have demonstrated to the New Zealand public that animal welfare is indeed important to our country and we congratulate Cabinet for this significant animal welfare outcome and being brave enough to lead the world in this stance.

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