A future National government would review the law banning live cattle exports, National’s animal welfare spokesperson Nicola Grigg says.
In terms of a bill passed this week, livestock export trade by sea will cease from April 30 next year, cutting New Zealand’s gross domestic product by $472 million and closing off a lucrative market for export cattle breeders.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the ban will protect NZ’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards.
“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill future-proofs our economic security amid increasing consumer scrutiny across the board on production practices,” he said.
The government started a review of the livestock export trade in 2019 in response to concerns the trade could be a risk to NZ’s reputation.
“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,” O’Connor said.
He said the effects on export flow will be small in the context of total primary sector exports, suggesting the two-year transition period has allowed those affected by the ban sufficient time to adjust their business models and supply chains to account for the removal of the trade.
But Grigg and industry stakeholders disagree, saying the decision signals more economic pain for farmers, rural communities and consumers, while also putting NZ at risk with key trading partners.
Grigg said the government failed to carry out its own robust economic analysis, or consider any of the proposed amendments put forward by industry and the National Party.
She cited an Infometrics Economic Impact Report that said the ban will reduce NZ’s GDP by $472m and cost export cattle breeders between $49,000 and $116,000 a year per farm.
“Rather than an outright ban on live exports, the government should legislate for a Gold Standard programme that would set world-leading compliance standards, like built-for-purpose ships, maximum stocking densities, vet and stock handler training, more robust reporting, exporter licensing and an importer quality assurance programme,” Grigg said.
Exporters have implemented a Gold Standard with the improvements recommended being evidenced based, using the latest information, knowledge and scientific developments.
“The Gold Standard is unprecedented internationally in scope and depth and when fully implemented would position NZ as a world leader in animal welfare regulations and reform,” Live Exporters NZ (LENZ) spokesperson Mark Willis said.
“We set out a clear and evidence-based 12-point regulatory plan to Minister O’Connor that would further improve and modernise the live animal export system. We did not receive any response.”
Animal Genetics and Trade Advisory Council chair Jim Edwards said the overall view needs to be from a global perspective.
“Livestock exporting allows us to maintain tight trading relationships with some of the largest importers of NZ agricultural products and that provides a significant source of export revenue for our small country.
“Our reputation will be damaged if we refuse to help other nations with their food security.”
Edwards said NZ has long been helping China with its food security.
“To say we are not going to do it anymore is an insult, there is risk and there will be reaction.
“We can only wait now with bated breath and hope [live export] trade will be reinstated and meantime hope not too much harm is done,” Edwards said.