Animals Sent Abroad

The number of dairy cows being exported live has been steadily increasing, particularly to China, which has a growing dairy industry. New Zealand dairy giant, Fonterra, now owns five farms in China. In 2013, over 35,000 dairy cows were exported to China. In 2015, 73,000 are expected to be exported there.

SAFE is very concerned about the welfare of New Zealand dairy cows taken overseas. Up to 3,000 animals are contained per ship, with around 12 in each pen. A New Zealand shipment of dairy cows hit bad weather a number of years ago, causing cows to abort their calves, fall over, and break legs. As a result nearly 100 animals died. A journey to China takes over 17 days and animals are then subjected to a 45-day quarantine upon arrival. Once these animals get to China, New Zealand no longer has control over their welfare and how they will be treated.

Although mortality rates may be lower on these shipments compared to those that transport animals for slaughter, because of smaller stocking numbers, there are a number of problems such as the journey itself being stressful for the animals and deaths still occur.

The number of sheep being exported is also of concern to SAFE. The June 2015 shipment saw a huge escalation in the number of these animals exported. Sheep, already nervous animals by nature, get highly stressed when confined with unfamiliar animals in small pens. Inanition (refusal to eat) is one of the leading causes of death of sheep exported by sea.

In neighbouring Australia, more than 2,500,000 sheep, cattle, and goats have died on live export ships since 1981. Animal advocates the world over condemn the live export trade as “unnecessary and inherently cruel”.

For the animals who survive the journey, horrendous suffering can await them in countries with no laws protecting them from cruelty. Terrified animals can be transported, handled, and slaughtered in ways that are illegal in New Zealand. Many have their throat cut while still conscious, leading to a slow and painful death.

Following the 2015 review of the Animal Welfare Act, the Government has the power to implement long-overdue enforceable standards for live animal exports.  New live export regulations will be developed as this process continues, and will be publicly consulted.