The passing of a Bill today to end the export of livestock by sea by 30 April next year will protect New Zealand’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards, says Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor.
“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill future-proofs our economic security amid increasing consumer scrutiny across the board on production practices,” Mr O’Connor said.
The 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,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Our primary sector exports hit a record $53 billion last year, delivering us economic security. 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.”
The Minister said New Zealand’s location meant animals were 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 the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 highlighted the real risks.
“The 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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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,” Mr O’Connor said.