Amid a global debate, Agbiz CEO Dr John Purchase says Mzansi will not be impacted by New Zealand’s decision to ban live animal exports by sea from 2023.
While South Africa does import beef from New Zealand, the ban will not “affect us at all”, says Purchase. A 2018 government report confirmed that Mzansi’s frozen beef exports from New Zealand was growing at a rate that is less than their export growth to the world.
Since New Zealand announced that live cattle exports by sea will be phased out over two years, there has been a global debate about the controversial practice.
Amid a heated debate in, among others, the European Union, people in South Africa had until 30 April to comment on the draft guidelines aimed at enhancing the ethical transportation of livestock from South Africa by sea.
Farmers vs. NSPCA
This comes as NSPCA executive director Marcelle Meredith vowed that the war in the abolition of live animal exports is far from over in South Africa. The NSCPA lost six consecutive cases at magistrate, high court, and Supreme Court levels in a battle against Kuwait-based meat exporter Al Mawashi.
“I doubt that we import any live animals from New Zealand and any lamb that we would import we would import as slaughtered,” says Purchase.
A report by the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) also supports Purchase’s view.
It states that South Africa only imports dairy products, animal and vegetable products, electrical machinery, and machinery from New Zealand.
Even though New Zealand banned the export of livestock for slaughter in 2008, it had continued to allow the export of livestock for breeding or dairy production purposes. A large percentage of the 110 000 cattle exported last year were transported to China by sea.
The New Zealand government says the trade generates approximately US$250 million in export dollars for the country each year.
However, members of the trade said the 110 000 cattle exported in 2020 were worth almost US$350 million. Furthermore, the trade was growing towards the US$500 million mark in 2021.
A big surprise for agriculture
The ban has come “as a surprise” to New Zealand’s agricultural sector, according to Federated Farmers animal welfare spokesperson, Wayne Langford.
“The minister said this is all about protecting New Zealand’s reputation as the most ethical producer of food in the world. Those farmers who support livestock exports would point out that our trade in this sector operates according to some of the highest animal welfare standards anywhere – standards that were further bolstered following last year’s Heron Report,” he said.
“Our farmers care deeply about animal welfare. The government has seen it fit to bring in this ban, but Federated Farmers has no information about any breaches of the high standards relating to livestock exports.”
“There is a contractual relationship with the companies receiving livestock from New Zealand at the export destination to have minimum standards in place, and these are monitored for 30 days after arrival of the animals,” Langford said.
“But it is true that after then, New Zealand has no control over the future welfare of those animals.
“The one encouraging aspect of the government’s announcement is the transition period of up to two years to enable those farmers with commitments in place to honour those commitments and consider their options once live exports are off the table,” Langford said.
O’Connor said the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) review of live exports, which started in 2019, identified mixed perceptions of the activity.
Air travel still allowed
“There is split opinion about its long-term value and how it fits with the story we want to tell internationally to consumers. In its review submission, the independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), which advises ministers on animal welfare issues, advised that the practice should stop.”
The ban does not apply to animals moved by air.
“Clearly the periods are far shorter and generally they are well looked after. We have not had any indications of concerns about animal welfare for animals moved by air,” O’Connor told New Zealand media.