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Maintaining the Ban on Live Animal Exports: Essential for New Zealand’s Reputation and Welfare Standards

In response to the recent statement by Federated Farmers advocating for the reversal of the live export ban, Animal Justice Party (AJP) asserts that we must address the critical issues that such a reversal would pose to New Zealand’s international reputation, economic interests, and animal welfare commitments. Here, AJP dismantles the key arguments presented by Federated Farmers and highlights the importance of maintaining the ban.

1. Protecting New Zealand’s Billion-Dollar Image
Federated Farmers argue that live exports were a significant earner for farmers and should be reinstated. However, this perspective overlooks the impact that reversing the ban would have on New Zealand’s international reputation as a leader in animal welfare. This reputation is not just a matter of national pride; NZ has a clean green image worth billions of dollars. The live export ban shows NZ’s commitment to ethical practices, which enhances our standing in global trade negotiations, particularly with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Disturbing images and reports of mistreatment during live exports can rapidly go viral, as evidenced by Australia's experience, leading to severe reputational damage. Reinstating live exports risks similar fallout, undermining New Zealand’s status as a progressive, humane, and environmentally conscious nation. Danette Wereta, General Secretary for the Animal Justice Party comments “The photos of cows suffering immensely on the Al Kuwait while docked in Cape Town will stay forever etched in our minds as a horror show. No cow deserves this; no one deserves this, and it’s not easily fixed."

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2. Live Export’s Minimal Economic Contribution
The economic argument for live exports is significantly overstated. Live exports constitute only 0.6 percent of New Zealand’s primary sector exports. The financial impact of maintaining the ban is minimal compared to the potential damage to our reputation and subsequent economic consequences if the ban is lifted.

Additionally, the global agricultural market is evolving. China’s move towards dairy self-sufficiency and the evolving precision fermentation market directly threatens the profitability of New Zealand’s live animal exports. Instead of focusing on a declining market, New Zealand should invest in high-value, innovative products such as biocosmetics and sports nutrition, which align with our branding strengths and are expanding export markets.

3. ‘Gold Standard’ Voyages Do Not Solve Core Welfare Issues
Federated Farmers tout the implementation of a ‘Gold Standard’ for live exports, suggesting that enhanced welfare measures will address the concerns. However, this argument fails to acknowledge the inherent suffering that animals endure during long-distance transport. Changing standards doesn’t change the length of the journey. Improvements in shipping conditions cannot mitigate the fundamental issues of stress, injury, disease, and the psychological impact of extended voyages.

Unpredictable weather conditions, as seen in the tragic sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 in 2020, further exacerbate these problems. The proposed welfare standards are insufficient to prevent such tragedies and ensure the humane treatment of animals throughout their journey.

4. Post-Voyage Welfare Concerns
The welfare concerns extend beyond the sea voyage. Upon arrival, animals are no longer protected by New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act, exposing them to harsh conditions in countries with lower welfare standards. Most of our live exports are destined for China, which lacks comprehensive animal welfare laws, as indicated by its low Animal Protection Index rating.

Reversing the ban would mean consigning animals to environments where they are likely to face inadequate care and increased suffering, undermining our ethical standards and international reputation. NZ live animal exporters are unlikely to have any real influence on how the animals are treated once they disembark on foreign soil.

Conclusion: Upholding the Ban Is Upholding Animal Welfare
The arguments for reversing the live export ban fail to justify the significant risks and ethical compromises involved. The minimal economic benefits are far outweighed by the potential harm to New Zealand’s global image and the welfare of the animals involved. Maintaining the ban aligns with our commitment to humane practices and supports our economic and diplomatic interests by preserving our reputation as a leader in animal welfare.

Wereta criticises Richard McIntyre's, Federated Farmers animal welfare spokesperson, stance, calling it hypocritical that he can advocate for animal welfare while simultaneously supporting live exports. Wereta compares this to "putting a band-aid on a broken leg and expecting it to heal," emphasising that no amount of regulation can fundamentally transform an inherently harmful practice into a humane one.

Wereta adds “it's time to make your voice heard, visit the AJP website and use our templates to email your local MP, the Ports and the Government”.

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