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Live Export Boss’s Misleading Claims Regarding Welfare

In the wake of the recent national election, both the Act and National Party have signalled their intent to revive live export by sea, a practice halted in April. In response to welfare concerns, assurances have been made that the revived industry will employ purpose-built ships adhering to the highest welfare standards, promising a comfortable journey for the animals on board.

However, scepticism arises in light of recent statements by Mark Willis, Head of Livestock Export New Zealand. Willis claimed that the ships used prior to the ban were already operating at a near "gold standard” and he expressed being "unaware in the last two years of any veterinary diagnosis of heat stress."

These statements, however, are at odds with voyage reports obtained by Animal Save Aotearoa under the Official Information Act. Animal Save spokesperson Elin Arbez states, “Multiple documented cases of heat stress, recorded by onboard veterinarians, challenge Mr Willis’ statement, and the notion that the previous industry standards were as exemplary as claimed. For instance, during the May 2021 sailing of the Brahman Express, heat stress was identified as the cause of death for four cows, according to veterinary diagnoses.”

The released reports reveal a litany of injuries and health issues prevalent during these voyages, including fractures, lacerations, abscesses, necrotic wounds, arthritis, respiratory issues, and premature birth/lactation. Contagious conditions like ringworm, pinkeye, and gastrointestinal problems were also prevalent. The data from 2021 and 2022 indicate that thousands of cows experienced lameness, some progressing to severe stages necessitating euthanasia. Shockingly, over 6,000 cows perished before reaching China, with an additional 300 deaths occurring in the 30-day post-voyage quarantine period.

Animal Save Aotearoa asserts that exporting live animals from New Zealand to China via sea is fundamentally unethical and incompatible with any notion of "high welfare." Instead of offering false promises to farmers, the government should prioritise supporting a transition to more sustainable and profitable alternatives, such as plant-based proteins and fibres.

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