NEW Zealand has passed legislation to end livestock exports by sea on 30 April 2023, with Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor claiming the move will protect New Zealand’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards.
“the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill future-proofs our economic security amid increasing consumer scrutiny across the board on production practices,” he said.
The NZ Government started a review of the livestock export trade in 2019 in response to concerns the trade could be a risk to New Zealand’s reputation.
“The objective of that review was to provide New Zealanders an opportunity to reflect on how we can improve the welfare of livestock being exported.
“Our primary sector exports hit a record $53 billion last year, delivering us economic security,” Mr O’Connor said.
“That result is built on our hard-earned reputation and this is something we want to protect.
“I acknowledge the valuable input from written and oral submitters during the Review and Select Committee process, and the considerable support the Bill received from the public,” he said.
“New Zealand’s remoteness means animals are at sea for extended periods, heightening their susceptibility to heat stress and other welfare-associated risks.
“Those involved in the trade have made improvements over recent years, but despite any regulatory measures we could put in place, the voyage times and the journey through the tropics to the northern hemisphere markets will always impose challenges,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said real risks of live export were highlighted by the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 in 2020. The vessel was transporting about 6000 cattle from New Zealand to China in September 2020 when it capsized in rough seas with 43 crew members on board.
Mr O’Connor said NZ’s National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee supported the ban.
“There are different opinions on its long-term value among farmers, how it effects New Zealand’s commitment to animal welfare, and our image in the eyes of international consumers,” he said.
“The impacts on export flow will be small in the context of total primary sector exports.
“Live exports by sea represented approximately 0.6 percent of primary sector exports last year,” he said.
“However, I do acknowledge the small number who are directly affected by these changes.
“The two-year transition period has allowed those impacted by the ban sufficient time to adjust their business models and supply chains to account for the removal of the trade,” the Minister said.
“Having said that our commitment to these high standards has already shown its value where animal welfare discussions have been brought up in Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom and the European Union.
“This Bill reinforces and builds on New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and ethical producer of high-quality food products,” he said.
“It protects the reputation of not just our farmers now but, the farmers of the future who want to commit to livestock farming assured that we are the best managers of animal welfare and producers of ethical animal protein for the world.”
The legislation was welcomed by animal welfare groups in New Zealand and Australia, but the NZ National Party said it would review the new law if it was elected into government.
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