NZ suspends live cattle exports as search continues for missing ship

NZ suspends live cattle exports as search continues for missing ship

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The missing Gulf Livestock 1, moored in Fremantle Harbour. Photo: Brian Scott, Marine Traffic

The missing Gulf Livestock 1, moored in Fremantle Harbour. Photo: Brian Scott, Marine Traffic

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Second survivor found; attention turns to future of the trade

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THE desperate search continues for missing crew from a livestock vessel that disappeared in the East China Sea amid a typhoon, with international media reports now filtering through that a second survivor has been found.

Two Australians, including a young Queensland veterinarian, were among just over 40 crew on the Gulf Livestock 1 when it capsized on Wednesday.

The vessel, which is owned by Gulf Navigation Holding and was chartered by Victorian-based Australasian Global Exports, was transporting 5800 of dairy heifers from New Zealand to China, a contract believed to have been negotiated in Australia.

ALSO SEE:Victorian dairy live exporter at centre of shock cattle ship loss

While all thoughts are with the families and friends of those missing, attention is already turning to the future of the live-ex trade in NZ.

Livestock export applications have been temporarily suspended by the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries.

In response to questions from Australian Community Media, a spokesperson for the Ministry said they wanted to "understand what happened on the sailing of the Gulf Livestock 1".

The suspension comes amid a review into NZ's live export sector launched last year by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, which has a total ban on the trade as one of four options.

The review, which covers cattle, sheep, goats, and deer, hinges on looking at whether the trade and the rules in place around it 'meet New Zealanders' expectations.'

The other options it includes are a conditional ban, new regulations and continuous improvement.

The NZ MPI said the more than 3,500 submissions received were now being analysed with advice to be prepared for the Minister about possible policy options.

Live export insiders and analysts in Australia believe this week's tragedy will push NZ well down the path of closing down its live export trade.

In announcing the review last June, Mr O'Connor said the continued export of cattle may be a risk to NZ's brand.

"The time has come to rethink this area and consider whether it's something that fits within our values as a country," he said.

"When animals leave NZ we set conditions that are considered world-class by veterinarians. But there have been incidents over the last few years that highlight the fact that once animals leave NZ we have very limited ability to ensure their wellbeing when they reach their destination.

"That's something that's not acceptable to me and I know it's not acceptable to a large number of New Zealanders."

Similar reviews are underway in other live-ex supplying countries, particularly Europe, and most are considering total bans.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been quoted many times saying the opportunity of Brexit would allow his government to "champion animal welfare".

The BBC reports the Conservative Party manifesto says that the UK would be able to ban live shipments after Brexit, but it does not make a pledge to do so.

While some countries, such as France and Mexico, have exported higher numbers of cattle that Australia in certain years over the past decade, much of their volume goes by road. Australia is by far the dominant player in sea-based live export.

Industry watchers say the value of the trade to Australia's economy, and the support it enjoys among the Australian population, has secured its place in the face of strong pressure to abolish it.

That same value and support is not as strong in other countries, particularly NZ, which in 2018 exported 23,500 head compared to Australia's 1.15m.

For a number of years, NZ has not exported slaughter cattle, only breeders.

Australia's live trade is constantly in 'review mode', industry insiders told ACM.

However, it is the only country in the world that has made animal welfare a condition of livestock trade, via ESCAS - the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System - and that gains strength, and support, every year.

ALSO READ:Indo demand for live cattle at a crossroads

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The story NZ suspends live cattle exports as search continues for missing ship first appeared on Farm Online.

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