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Mass Live Export Shipment Planned For This Weekend In Timaru

The Al Kuwait, one of the world’s largest live export ships, is expected in Timaru this weekend, only five weeks since it last exported over 10 thousand cows from the South Canterbury port.

Timaru locals are planning to protest the ship’s arrival this Sunday at midday.

SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said live exports only appear to be increasing at a time when the industry should be winding down.

"It’s been a little over a month and now there’s a second mass shipment of cows from Timaru,"

"When Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the ban on live export, he gave the industry a two year ‘transition period’ to wind down the trade. It actually appears they are ramping up animal exports."

Based on figures obtained under the Official Information Act approximately 120,000 cows were exported from New Zealand in 2021, compared with 109,921 in 2020 and 39,269 in 2019. The Agriculture Minister announced in April 2021 that live export by sea would end on 30 April 2023 following a two year transition period.

SAFE has been given only brief details about the transition period and has had no assurances new contracts won’t be approved during this time, or how the Government plans to mitigate the known risks and suffering to animals during the phase-out period.

"We hold serious concerns that the industry is continuing as if nothing has changed, and animals will continue to suffer at a large scale as a result. We urge the Government to decline all new applications and end live exports by sea at the earliest opportunity."


SAFE is New Zealand’s leading animal rights organisation.

We're creating a future that ensures the rights of animals are respected. Our core work empowers society to make kinder choices for ourselves, animals and our planet.

Notes for editors:

- TVNZ’s ‘Sunday’ programme revealed widespread suffering on one voyage of the Yangtze Harmony, which left New Plymouth on 19 August 2020. "By day three, the bedding was gone, meaning the cattle had to stand for a prolonged period, up to 14 days. Up to 80 cattle got their heads stuck under pen railings. There were broken legs, infections, significant numbers of lame cattle, on an overstocked boat on rough seas. All contributed to 49 mortalities on board, and another 14 deaths during the cattle’s first month in China."

- ’Sunday’ also revealed that post-voyage reports noted serious welfare issues such as overcrowding and animals dying of trampling and suffocation. There was a shocking report of a peak ‘abortion storm,’ with 13 cases noted. Veterinarian and animal welfare expert Dr John Hellstrom stated, "Animals don’t start aborting for stress-related reasons until they’re pretty stressed."

- The Government began a review of the live export trade in June 2019. This was after SAFE raised concerns about the treatment of New Zealand cows in Sri Lanka, which was subsequently reported on by ABC News.

- In 2020, SAFE broke the news that the live export ship Gulf Livestock 1 had capsized and sunk off the coast of China. The tragedy saw 5,867 New Zealand cows drown, and 41 crew members, including two New Zealanders, were lost at sea.

- Footage of a live export ship loading cows at PrimePort Timaru.

- Recent analysis from The Guardian has found that live export ships are twice as likely to be lost at sea as cargo vessels.

- Thousands of cows were recently stranded at sea for over two months in the Mediterranean following an outbreak of the viral disease bluetongue on two live export ships. Both ships had been refused entry at multiple ports. Over 800 cows on the ships were slaughtered as a result.

- In 2003, Saudi Arabia rejected a shipment of over 57,000 Australian and New Zealand sheep on board the MV Cormo Express on alleged disease grounds and refused to unload them. After two months at sea and the ship being unable to find a port, around 6,000 of the sheep died on board. Following this disaster, the New Zealand Government suspended the export of live sheep for slaughter. In 2007, a conditional prohibition on the export of livestock (cattle, sheep, deer and goats) for slaughter was introduced.

- Under the Animal Welfare (Export of Livestock for Slaughter) Regulations 2016, live animals cannot be exported for slaughter without the approval of the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries. Approval may only be granted if the Director-General considers that the risks to New Zealand’s trade reputation can be adequately managed. There have been no livestock exports for slaughter since 2008.

- Animals exported for breeding purposes and their young will still eventually be slaughtered, potentially by methods that would not be legal in New Zealand.

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