New Zealand bans live animal export! Parties for the Animals worldwide push EU to follow suit

21 april 2021

Last week the New Zealand government announced to stop the export of live animals by sea. A historic decision applauded by animal welfare organizations and political parties for animal rights across the globe. Parties for the animals worldwide now urge the European Commission to follow New Zealand’s example in a joint letter. In European Parliament, MEP Anja Hazekamp has intensively campaigned for such a ban by the EU over the past few years. “There is overwhelming evidence that these transports are nothing short of animal hell and don’t comply to European regulations. If you can’t control them, you have to ban them’, Hazekamp states.

In New Zealand, an investigation into the conditions endured by cattle at sea was launched after a livestock ship sailing from New Zealand capsized in the East China Sea last September. All animals - nearly 6000 young cows - and 42 crew members died. Following that, the government temporarily banned exports of live cattle, to resume them later on the condition that circumstances during transport would improve. Despite intensive lobbying by exporters to continue, the government now plans to ban the live animal trade completely, phasing out the industry within two years. “The fact is that once animals leave New Zealand by sea, we have very limited ability to ensure their well-being before they reach their destination,” New Zealand’s agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said. “At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high standards in animal welfare.”

Debra Ashton, CEO of the animal welfare organisation SAFE that has been campaigning on this issue for years, was pleased with the news, but stresses that it’s essential for other countries to follow New Zealand’s example. Live animal exporters are already starting to look at other countries for animals to ship. Like Australia or countries such as Romania and Spain within the European Union. But: “It's a trade whose time has come, it's a trade we should have got out of years ago,” vet and former head of Animal Welfare for the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries Dr John Hellstrom says.

Europe, what are you waiting for?

Protest against cruel animal transports in the European Parliament, organized by the Dutch Party for the Animals together with sister parties from different countries.

The Party for the Animals and its sister parties could not agree more and are stepping up their pressure on the EU to follow suit and show the political courage and compassion to take action. For although the European Parliament has already agreed to shorten transport times and ban live animal transport to non-EU countries when EU animal welfare standards cannot be guaranteed, the European Commission has failed to act. “But we will keep pressing for a total ban on live animal transport. The animals have waited long enough, it’s time for action,” MEP Anja Hazekamp states.

As the initiator and vice-chair of the European parliamentary inquiry commission on animal transport, Hazekamp has travelled to European ports to show infringements of European regulations. Last year, she pressed the European Parliament and Commission to take sanctions against countries that violate the rules on a structural basis, such as Romania. Early this month, she was in the Spanish harbour of Cartagena to monitor what was happing to the victims of the stranded livestock ship Elbeik: cows that had been stuck at sea for months on end in horrendous circumstances. And animal rights parties across the globe have joined forces in an online campaign and petition to ban live transport and change to a sustainable food system.

Last week, eighteen parties for animal rights, nature and the environment from Europe and beyond have sent a joint letter to the European Commissioners Kyriakides and Wojciechowski, urging them to take immediate steps to ensure effective protection of animals during long-distance transport and to ban live animal exports to non-EU countries. “We ask the European Commission to act with the urgency appropriate to such situations involving the life and death of sentient beings. (...) The fate of millions of lives is in your hands.”

This article was partly based on The Animal Readers text and interview with SAFE’s Debra Ashton.