New Zealand to resume talks on live sheep export

| 26/03/2009 | Reply

Welfare at heart of talks to restart live sheep exports


4:00AM Thursday Mar 26, 2009

By Owen Hembry

Live exports could increase the profitability of sheep farming, says David Carter.

Live exports could increase the profitability of sheep farming, says David Carter.

Negotiations to resume exports of live sheep for slaughter
are continuing but Agriculture Minister David Carter says a ban will
remain unless they meet the highest welfare standards.

A
voluntary moratorium on exports was imposed immediately after an
incident in 2003 when more than 50,000 Australian sheep were refused
permission to unload in Saudi Arabia and were left adrift at sea for
nearly three months.

“Since then, Saudi Arabia has been
negotiating towards a bilateral arrangement with New Zealand to reopen
the way for the export of live sheep for slaughter,” Carter said.

There was no timetable for completion of negotiations.

“The
fact is the export of livestock – sheep, cattle, deer and goats- for
slaughter will remain prohibited unless New Zealand is totally
satisfied that the highest animal welfare and animal safety standards
are met.”

A Customs Export Prohibition Order was imposed in 2007
under which individual livestock consignments could be approved on a
case by case basis by the director-general of the Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry.

Livestock exports, mostly for breeding purposes and excluding race
horses, were worth $39 million in 2007/08 and no application to export
for slaughter had been made since the prohibition order was put in
place. If exports did resume the volume was not expected to be very
large, Carter said.

Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Sue Kedgley said there was no benefit from resuming exports of live sheep.

“This
trade is not just cruel it makes no economic sense,” Kedgley said. “In
Australia meat workers unions estimate that 12,000 jobs have been lost
and 70 abattoirs closed as a result of their live sheep exports.”

Most
sheep in New Zealand were slaughtered according to Halal customs and
were exported frozen and chilled to the Middle East, she said.

Carter said the sheep industry had been under extreme pressure.

“If
this is one potential additional income stream which pays a premium
over and above what farmers can otherwise receive for their livestock
it increases the profitability of sheep farming [and] ensures we’ve got
a continued viable industry,” Carter said.

Federated Farmers
animal welfare spokesperson Bruce Wills said thousands of Saudi Arabian
Awassi sheep were reared in Hawkes Bay.

“We have a large Awassi
property that’s owned by the Saudi Arabians who also own shipping lines
and who want to resume this trade,” Wills said.

“They’ve made a
big investment … and obviously what they’ve got to do now is meet all
the regulatory requirements and hurdles.”

Animal welfare during
and after shipment must be the prime consideration if live sheep
shipments resumed, and consumers worldwide wanted assurances about the
ethical treatment of farm animals, Federated Farmers said.

“Federated
Farmers is deeply concerned that it only takes one bad shipment for a
negative light to be cast on all New Zealand farmers and the brand
value of all New Zealand meat,” Wills said.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link and that weak link will be live animal shipments.”

SHEEP ON SHIPS

* A voluntary moratorium of exports was imposed in 2003 after more than 50,000 Australian sheep were left adrift at sea.
* A Customs Export Prohibition Order relating to all livestock was imposed in 2007.
* Negotiations to resume exports are under way but with no deadline.

Category: Meat & Poultry, Oceania

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