New law will end all exports of live cattle by sea from New Zealand

Conditions aboard Gulf Livestock 1, which declined in 2020 with significant loss of life (Safe NZ)

Posted on September 30, 2022 at 5:12 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

New Zealand will stop all exports of live cattle by sea from April next year thanks to a new law passed by the country’s parliament.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said that following passage of the bill, all livestock exports by sea will cease after April 30, 2023. The development is aimed at protecting the country’s reputation to some of the best animal welfare standards in the world.

The impending ban is the culmination of a process that began in 2019 when the government undertook a review of the live animal export trade. According to O’Connor, the tragic sinking of the Gulf Breeding 1 highlighted the real risks. The cattle carrier sank in September 2020, killing 41 crew and around 6,000 head of cattle. Only two crew members survived the disaster. The ship was en route in the East China Sea when it capsized in rough seas due to Typhoon Maysak. The ship had left the port of Napier, New Zealand, the previous month.

“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill protects our economic security for the future amid growing consumer scrutiny at all levels over production practices,” O’Connor said.

New Zealand government data shows that in the first half of this year, the country exported 50,440 live animals, all destined for China. Napier is the leading export port, handling about three-quarters of shipments. During the period, the death toll stood at 23. In 2021, the country exported 134,722 live animals and 86 deaths were reported. China remained the only market.

According to O’Connor, New Zealand’s remoteness means animals are at sea for long periods of time, increasing their susceptibility to heat stress and other associated welfare risks. While supply chain players have improved in recent years, travel times and the journey across the tropics to markets in the northern hemisphere have continued to pose challenges despite the regulatory measures put in place.

“The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has backed the ban. There are differing opinions about its long-term value among farmers, how it affects New Zealand’s commitment to animal welfare and our image in the eyes of international consumers,” he noted.

The impact of the ban on export flows is expected to be small, given that live animal exports by sea accounted for around 0.6% of primary sector exports last year. During the year, New Zealand’s primary sector exports amounted to $30 billion.