In a move that has already drawn criticism from some in the industry, the government has confirmed plans to ban live animal exports from 2023.
Animal rights groups have welcomed the move with SAFE saying the ban would mean animals will no longer suffer in countries with lower standards of animal welfare. Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Conner confirmed the ban would begin in 2023, leaving the next two years for exports to be phased out.
"At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand's reputation for high standards of animal welfare," O’Conner said in a statement. "We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny."
Live exports have made up roughly 0.2 per cent of all agriculture revenue since 2015 –
O'Connor said the Ministry for Primary Industries has been working on this since 2019.
However, Act's Primary Industries spokesman Mark Cameron said the ban was a "kick in the guts" to the rural sector.
"This ban won't improve animal welfare because live exports from New Zealand will be replaced by exports from other countries with lower animal welfare standards."
According to the Animal Genetics Trade Association, the live animal export trade is worth half a billion dollars.
"This is an ill-informed, massively consequential decision for the nation, to earn short-term political brownie points from a few activists. There is no morality in removing half a billion dollars from our economy and forcing the early deaths of up to 150,000 animals a year," commented spokesman Dave Hayman.
Last year nearly 110,000 cattle were exported from New Zealand to China - a nearly threefold increase from the year before. O'Connor said officials had spoken to key trading partners about the decision.
"During the transition period, exporters will need to meet the extra requirements that we introduced following the independent Heron report, which was carried out after the tragic loss of the Gulf Livestock 1 in September 2020,” O’Conner concluded.
"I want to thank all of those who took part in the wider review. The Government is committed to high animal welfare standards.”