New Zealand suspends live cattle exports after ship goes missing

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has temporarily suspended consideration of cattle livestock export applications, according to a report from Radio New Zealand.

The suspension follows the disappearance of a cargo ship with 43 people and almost 6,000 cattle on board, which was reported missing during a typhoon. Australasian Global Exports, a licensed livestock exporter, chartered the ship.

A crew member was picked up by the Japan Coast Guard and has said that the ship’s engine failed, then it was subsequently hit by a freak wave before finally it capsized at a position around 185 kilometres (115 miles) west of Japan’s Amami Oshima island. The fate of the rest of the crew and cargo remains unknown at this time.

In a statement accompanying the announcment MPI said: “MPI wants to understand what happened on the sailing of the Gulf Livestock 1.”

SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said the incident demonstrated the risks in the live export trade: “These cows should never have been at sea. This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.”

Shipping Livestock

In June last year, the Government began a review into live export trade, after hundreds of cattle being exported from New Zealand and Australia died.

In New Zealand there is already a ban on exporting live animals for slaughter, however there is a loophole allowing live animals to be exported for breeding purposes.

Green Party spokesperson on animal welfare Gareth Hughes told RNZ’s Checkpoint today the Green Party wanted a ban on exporting all live animals, saying that continuing the practice was bad for the animals and that it was ‘damaging the country’s international agriculture brand.

Mr Hughes said: “It’s something I don’t think we should be continuing, we know these animals do suffer with distress aboard the ships with potentially weeks at sea.

“It’s something I’ve urged the minister to act with haste on and I’m disappointed the review has taken so long to get to this point.

“We’re still talking about tens of thousands of animals confined in very small spaces at sea, they can’t understand what’s happening with the risk conditions out there.”

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