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'We have blood on our hands' — SPCA calls for total ban on exports of live farmed animals

The SPCA is calling for a total ban on the live exports of farmed animals by sea after its top official says “thousands” of animals have died on ships bound for overseas ports.

SPCA officials are calling for a total ban on exports of live farmed animals. Source: Getty

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen and the organisation’s chief scientific officer, Arnja Dale, say they have sent letters to ministers asking them to “do the right thing” and create a total ban on live exports.

In a statement, Midgen says ministers have the opportunity to listen to the “majority” of New Zealanders who share SPCA’s concerns that there are significant welfare fears over animal exports.

“There are a number of recent incidents which have seen thousands of animals die on ships bound for overseas ports, and we’ve now reached a point where enough is enough,” she says.

“Quite simply, we have blood on our hands. Cabinet has a responsibility to show that animal welfare is indeed important to our country.

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"It is up to our Government to ensure that animals bred in this country are treated humanely throughout their lives and are not exposed to handling, rearing or slaughter practices that would be contrary to New Zealand’s laws and regulations,” Midgen says.

“For many years, SPCA has advocated for a total ban on the live export of farmed animals, whether for slaughter or breeding purposes and the long history of disasters accompanying such journeys supports this position.”

Included in the statement was a table of reports that outlined recent deaths of animals, including 6000 pregnant cows that died after a ship capsized in 2020 along with 14,000 sheep that died in another capsize in Romania in 2019.

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Dale says in addition to high-profile catastrophic events and the reputational risk of this trade, SPCA is concerned about the many factors that impact upon the welfare of exported animals before, during and after their journey.

“These include the conditions on the vessel, including stocking densities, heat/cold stress, inadequate ventilation, slurry management, lack of dry lying areas, difficulties inspecting individual animals, lack of daily veterinary reporting, and only deaths being reported rather than the welfare compromise of the animals that do not die on board,” she says.

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“There are also issues around quarantine, and the lack of control at the destination country after the 30 days of reporting is completed. New Zealanders, including many farmers, have told us that they do not want live exports to continue. Will Cabinet prioritise animal welfare in this decision?” Dale asks.

“SPCA has a responsibility to urge the Government, and notably the Cabinet, to do the right thing and end the live export of farmed animals once and for all,” Midgen says.