Push for U-turn on Live Export Ban

Warning the bilateral relationship could be hurt if a U-turn does not take place, a Chinese state-owned enterprise is pushing the Government to reverse its plans for a ban of live animal exports.

In April last year, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced New Zealand would end the export of livestock by sea from April 2023, citing concerns about damage to the country’s reputation for animal welfare.

O’Connor commissioned a review of the practice in 2019 following concerns about the deaths and poor health of cattle shipped to Sri Lanka.

The following year, 41 crew and nearly 6000 cattle died when a live export ship capsized near Japan after departing from Napier en route to China.

The majority of New Zealand’s live cattle exports head to the Asian superpower, with Ministry of Primary Industries data showing the country has been the only destination for shipments of nearly 300,000 cattle since 2018.

When O’Connor announced the plans for a ban, he confirmed Kiwi officials had spoken to their Chinese counterparts about the decision but was not concerned about any blowback from China.

“It’s not about China. It’s about animal welfare,” O’Connor said.

“We have a mature relationship with them, and I’m sure they understand our position.”

However, the China Animal Husbandry Group, a state-owned enterprise with revenue of NZ$1.2 billion, has now asked the Government to allow the continued export of breeding cattle to the country.

In a submission to Parliament’s primary production committee, which is considering the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill which would give effect to the ban, the SOE said the Chinese dairy market had grown rapidly in recent years, due to “our huge population and the increasing demand for quality dairy products”.

“Many newly established dairy farms are eager to fill with quality dairy breeding stock which have better genetics and milk production. New Zealand is regarded as a premium origin of dairy cows thanks to their reputation for good health, high milk yields and longevity – all much better than China's domestic herd.”

In its own submission, New Zealand’s independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee said a total ban was the only way to fully protect animal welfare during and after the export of livestock, given difficulties in obtaining information on their condition during the journey and once they had arrived.