New Zealand Poised to Resume Live Export Trade

New Zealand is poised to resume exporting live sheep to the Middle East, outraging SAFE and the Green Party.

The Green Party says a deal that would see our sheep sent on a three week ocean journey to the Middle East simply to be slaughtered as part of a Hajj festival is imminent.

The Government has confirmed plans for an agreement with Saudi Arabia to resume exports.

"Every exporter in New Zealand should be very concerned, because this is going to damage New Zealand's reputation, and for what?" asks SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek. "For just one overseas company that wants to export sheep? Seems crazy."

New Zealand stopped live exports in 2004 after 5000 sheep died on an Australian ship bound for Saudi Arabia, prompting international disgust.

But the demand for live sheep is now bigger than ever, driven by the Hajj festival where sheep are sacrificed as part of Muslim culture.

News that the New Zealand Government is being pressured to allow live sheep shipments to resume has sparked outrage and has resulted in SAFE gearing up for an international campaign. The Saudi Minister of Agriculture recently visited New Zealand to inspect sheep farms in the Hawke's Bay region and to have talks with New Zealand Minister of Agriculture Jim Anderton.

SAFE is extremely alarmed at Saudi Arabia's efforts to sway Anderton to allow live sheep shipments from New Zealand to resume. Anderton recently decided to prohibit the export of live sheep, cattle, deer and goats for slaughter, unless it was proven that stress, injuries and deaths could be minimised.

"No matter what conditions are placed on exporters, live shipments are inherently cruel and the bad treatment of the animals in the country of destination further adds to their suffering. Resumption of this despicable trade will be met by the strongest opposition possible," says SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek.

"We are not going to stand by and let thousands of animals be sent away in these death ships unchallenged. New Zealand's reputation will suffer badly as SAFE will seek to team up with its international colleagues and take a joint campaign to our main overseas markets.

The Minister previously expressed concerns that live sheep exports created unnecessary risk to New Zealand's international reputation as a responsible exporter if something went wrong. New Zealand routinely exported live sheep from Hawke's Bay and Timaru for nearly 20 years until an 11-week ill-fated journey of Australian sheep onboard MV Cormo Express resulted in the deaths of 5000 animals in 2003. The incident made international headlines and raised serious animal welfare questions.

It is understood Saudi Arabia has a shortage of live animals, particularly during the Haj (annual pilgrimage) season when Muslims sacrifice livestock.

SAFE has started to prepare for an unprecedented international campaign should permission be given to resume the trade but hopes that common sense will prevail and live exports from New Zealand will remain a thing of the past.

"Consumers in Europe are increasingly concerned about animal welfare issues. SAFE will look at a range of campaign activities both here and abroad including a call for a boycott of New Zealand products if all other options fail," says Hans.