Gareth Hughes: Animal rights should not be ignored

Opinion 14/06/2019

By Gareth Hughes, Green Party MP.

You can tell a lot about a country by the way it treats its animals. One blot on New Zealand’s record has been the practise of live exports of animals.

This week the Government announced it is reviewing the controversial practise and considering a ban.

This is something the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has called for and worked towards. For us, it is first and foremost needed to protect animal welfare, but my message to farmers has the on-going practise poses risks to our agricultural reputation.

This poses real risk to our agricultural reputation.

Back in 2003 live export for slaughter was stopped after the high-profile and cruel death of 5000 sheep transported to Saudi Arabia, but every year since we have exported tens of thousands of animals for breeding purposes.

In 2015 for example one ship had 50,000 sheep and 3000 cattle with only a single vet on board. The conditions would shock many and they’ve been called floating prisons. Some die during transport but the biggest problem is what happens when they arrive.

There’s no way to know how they are treated when they arrive.

If you look at what happened to NZ dairy cattle exported to Sri Lanka you would be absolutely appalled.

Hundreds died in horrible circumstances leading to one Sri Lankan farmer to say “I have a cemetery, not a farm.” I questioned the Minister of Agriculture on the Sri Lankan export scandal and pointed out, the EU has banned all live animal exports to countries with lower animal welfare standards.

I believe it is time New Zealand does the same – we can’t impose our animal welfare rules on other countries, but we can stop exporting to them.

New Zealand’s live animal export laws are in serious need of an update to protect animals from harm and protect New Zealand’s reputation. I know Kiwis love and care about animal welfare and the Greens will be pushing for the strongest possible outcome to end live exports.

Gareth Hughes is a Green Party MP.