One of the final shipments of livestock departed from the Port of Napier this week before the government’s ban on live cattle exports comes into effect at the end of the month.
The livestock industry maintains its view that a ban is shortsighted and while resigned to the reality that the current government is not going to make an about turn, will continue to work with political parties to re-implement the live export trade.
“The government has continued to ignore advice from their own officials, the industry and the views of everyday Kiwis,” Mark Willis, chair of industry body Live Export New Zealand (LENZ) said.
“Our rural communities will bear the brunt of this decision and the impacts cannot come at a worse time as farmers struggle against the backdrop of an escalating cost-of-living crisis,” Willis said.
LENZ has “worked deeply” with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to support continuous improvement to assure the welfare of exported animals.
In the past three years the livestock export industry has developed a Gold Standard animal welfare framework.
Launched in 2020, it provides considerable protections over and above traditional live animal export standards, with the industry moving to introduce vessel and destination farm approval processes to lift the level of care even further.
“We’ve worked collaboratively with MPI to develop a superior set of standards to ensure that animals experience the highest levels of care during export,” Willis said.
“Animal welfare standards now well exceed international best practice.”
The additional measures aim to ensure that all transport vessels meet even stricter criteria to deliver the highest levels of care and animal wellbeing, and a new destination farm approval process will ensure animals go to farms that meet stricter and even more comprehensive standards of care.
The industry body commissioned research, which found that the ban is expected to cost New Zealanders hundreds of millions of dollars.
The research, conducted by TDB and Infometrics, further assessed the impacts on national wellbeing of the impending ban.
It estimated an initial cost to national wellbeing of $475 million a year in the short term and a long-term cost of $320m a year with the costs to financial wellbeing weighing heavily on rural communities.
Perceptions research was also undertaken and a Voconiq survey, commissioned to better understand the context surrounding the impending ban and its likely impacts on NZ, showed there is strong confidence among New Zealanders that regulation can hold the industry accountable and ensure it does the right thing.
The survey found that New Zealanders agree that improved animal welfare standards are preferred to an outright ban (59% agree, 28% neutral); that banning live exports will impact NZ’s international trading position and reputation (44% agree, 36% neutral); that the live animal export industry makes an important contribution to NZ (60% agree, 28% neutral).
Social cohesion costs include a cost to NZ’s reputation from the perspective of the international trading community and a cost to NZ’s trade relationships with livestock-trading partners.
Willis is not surprised by the findings but disappointed the government hasn’t, as he put it, considered the views of New Zealanders.
“Through our research it is clear people don’t understand the process, in particular they have a perception in mind that is not supported by facts but often shaped by the noise of advocacy groups.”
The industry will continue to create a new model.
“We will continue to work with political parties to get the Gold Standard in place and the re-implementation of the live export trade.
“Both National and ACT have been quite clear they want to make fact-based decisions so we will continue to present facts and work through a solution,” Willis said.
Federated Farmers dairy chair Richard McIntrye said Feds and the many businesses involved in the trade want discussions re-opened.
But he said the debate must be based on facts rather than politics and ideology.
He questioned affordability.
“Can NZ afford to turn its back on annual export income worth $400-$500m?
“The global live cattle trade will continue but from countries and by exporters with lower animal welfare standards filling the gap enforced on us.
“It’s an election year, rural NZ looks forward to hearing the policies of the various parties on this topic,” McIntyre said.