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HomePoliticalFarmers Reject Government’s Plans To Restart The Export Of Animals By Sea

Farmers Reject Government’s Plans To Restart The Export Of Animals By Sea

“I can’t see how they can polish this turd”
– farmers reject Government’s plans to restart the
export of animals by sea. 

1 May marks a
year since New Zealand’s world-leading ban on live exports
by sea came into effect. Instead of it being cause for
celebration the anniversary is marred by the Government’s
plan to restart the unpopular trade.

SPCA says
politicians claiming to be champions of farming and business
do not have the support of all farmers or a business case
for it.

“Government would have the public believe
that any opposition to their plan is anti-farming,” says
SPCA’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale. “It’s
about animal welfare and farmers agree.”

dairy farmer Chris Falconer has signed the parliamentary
petition to protect the ban.

“I can’t see how they
can polish this turd. There might be a couple of extra boxes
to tick but it’ll still be miserable for the

Since New Zealand’s ban other countries
around the world have begun to follow suit but the
Government wants to overturn the ban, a move known in
business circles as ‘backslide.’

ban was imposed in response to veterinarians, animal welfare
advocates, and the New Zealand public decrying conditions
and outcomes for the animals. There have also been multiple
disasters for the industry.

“I think it
would be extremely silly for this Government to overturn the
ban when it’s not something they have majority public
support for,” says a dairy farmer in Canterbury choosing
to withhold his name from publication to avoid hassle. He
believes the ban imposed by the previous Government makes

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The live export lobby in New Zealand is made up
of corporates, some with co-directorships registered to
addresses in China and Australia. It is unclear what value
live exports would bring to the economy but before the ban
it represented approximately half a percent of New
Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue. Meanwhile market
commentators say China’s domestic demand for dairy has
declined as it nears self-sufficiency.

asked to see a business case or a cost benefit analysis for
it– the Government says it doesn’t have either,” says
Dr Dale.

“We have also asked to see the official
advice provided to the Minister from MPI on the process for
reintroducing live exports by sea. The Government refuses to
share it.”

“Scrapping the ban is a backward step
for farmers and farmers have enough trouble being associated
with forward steps,” says dairy farmer Chris

“My farm is my business so the first lens
I apply is does it compromise our values – not is it
financially viable – does it compromise our values and if it
does – it’s a nonstarter.”

Speaking to SPCA from
the farm his family has worked for generations a Southland
farmer says he’s not interested in selling his breeding
stock to overseas farms, but he tends to stay quiet about
his stance frustrated at farmers being used to bolster
political support.

“It’s an animal welfare
issue,” he says, “not a political

Federated Farmers has publicly made clear its
support for the return of live cattle exports but some of
its members say they haven’t been asked their opinion. The
organisation’s former President Andrew Hoggard, now Animal
Welfare Minister, himself a farmer, is tasked with
restarting the live export trade. In May last year he told
Rural News Group he hasn’t needed to export his

In National’s manifesto Christopher Luxon
put it like this:

‘New Zealand is an agricultural
nation. National will boost our economy while protecting our
environment. National is proud to back New Zealand’s
world-leading farmers.’

SPCA’s Chief
Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale says protecting animal
welfare is pro-farming.

“New Zealand farmers work
tirelessly to provide good animal welfare evolving and
safeguarding standards that are envied abroad. Why would
anyone want to undermine that premium?”

She says
restarting the export of live animals by sea neither
significantly boosts the economy nor backs New Zealand’s
world-leading farmers.

Pete Morgan of South Waikato
describes himself as a mainstream, profit-focused,
by-the-book dairy farmer. He says he relies on a mix of
robust science and first-hand experience to improve animal
welfare and wellbeing.

“Happy healthy animals are
far more productive. Live exports are out of time. The
decision to ban them is right morally, it’s right for the
market and it’s right for optimising

It’s not just the conditions on
boats that farmers are deeply uncomfortable with. Mr Morgan
says his farming peers agree that putting animals on foreign
farms, where they will not have the continued protections
they have in New Zealand, could be overtly

He’s also signed the parliamentary petition
to protect the ban urging the Government to be associated
with progress rather than slowing necessary change for the

“Government’s job is leadership, the move
away from live exports is what good leadership looks
like,” he says.

SPCA hears from farmers upset at the
photos showing animals on board ships caked in excrement
without the room to show normal behaviour.

should be upset, this is not how animals are treated on New
Zealand farms,” says Dr Arnja Dale.

“When farmers
see the photos, they react with a mix of anger and
disbelief. And I get it. What is the point if we end up
treating them like this?”

Spearheading the
parliamentary petition to protect the ban is retired
veterinarian Dr John Hellstrōm ONZM who is a former Chief
Veterinary Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and
Fisheries, and former chair of the National Animal Welfare
Advisory Committee.

“I have been blown away by the
comments I’ve received from farmers and vets who support
the petition and have thanked me for putting it up. Many
have said they are so disappointed that live cattle export
has been brought up again after it was finally closed

Dr Hellstrōm’s parliamentary petition has
so far collected more than 33,000 signatures from people
wanting to protect the ban on live exports by sea.

petition closes 14 June and can be found

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