Live export battle not over yet: Kiwis continue fight for our cows

May 22, 2023

Live export battle not over yet: Kiwis continue fight for our cows

SAFE is asking Kiwis to join in to protect the ban on live export by sea. Image. SAFE

The lengthy battle against New Zealand’s live cattle exports has finally ended - but concerns remain as since National vowed to overturn it if they are voted in.

Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) is questioning the National Party’s pledge to overturn the ban.

And another campaigner says keeping people informed is the only way to prevent a return to what activists say is an unethical practice due to cramped conditions and lack of value placed on animals' lives.

SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton says: “If they are prepared to overturn that decision, what other animal welfare legislation are they likely to want to overturn as well?”.

Auckland animal rights activist Deno Arthur Vegan Stock campaigned heavily against the practice and says, compared to usual shipping methods, live cattle exports are inhumane.

“They fill the boat up completely, so if one gets sick or gives birth, they just get thrown overboard.”

He says while there are financial damages to the ban it is worth being preserved.

“[The ban] will have an effect financially, but we can’t do that to living beings. Life is a bit more important than money.”

The practice came into a horrifying light with the Gulf Livestock 1 capsizing in 2020 which killed 41 crew and all cattle on board.

“The boat was full of pregnant cattle, making the originally presumed 6,000 cows on board that died, closer to 12,000 if calves were to be included in that number,” Stock said.

Stock says that informing people on the practice is the only way to guarantee the practice remains banned.

“We have to expose what’s happening, our only weapon is to inform people,”

Hawkes Bay resident Caz Pattersson kick-started protests along with her husband after hearing about Gulf Livestock 1 sinking in 2020.

Pettersson emphasised the “hideous” conditions the cows must live in, not only on the journey but once they arrive at their destination.

“The moment they hit that boat they have a horrible life ahead of them. They're just standing in excrement, it’s cold, it's wet, and it’s cramped.”

New Zealand’s live export in 2019, prior to the phase out, was worth $54 million per year in revenue. In 2022, that revenue had increased to $554 million.

Ashton says it was a like a “gold rush” to export as many shipments as possible when the phase-out was first announced in 2019.

She also believes this practice falls short of our reputation around the world.

“We have a world leading Animal Welfare Act, and our laws are respected around the world.

“To be sending our animals over to countries that fall well short of our animal welfare legislations doesn’t say much about our responsibility," she says.

The concerns for cattle raised in intensive farms and slaughtered without pre-stunning at the destination country, leaves Ashton questioning the government's assessment of the situation.

She adds, “what we need to do, on the positive side of things is start putting a true value on all those other great products that we export overseas.”

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