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Huge live export shipment raises SPCA concerns

Thursday, 11 June, 2015

The live export of 50,000 sheep and 3,000 cattle to Mexico has raised concerns at the Royal New Zealand SPCA despite assurances that the animals will be used only for breeding purposes.

“We have concerns about the transportation of so many live animals over such a long distance,” says Ric Odom, CEO of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

“Although we acknowledge assurances from the Ministry for Primary Industries that the animals are intended as breeding stock and not for slaughter, we believe there is still an animal welfare issue at stake.”

Live export voyages put animals under severe pressure due to high stocking densities, high ammonia levels (from urine and faeces), extreme climate changes, and feed changes. These and other stress-inducing factors can result in sheep and cattle suffering a range of disorders during the voyage, including heat stress, pneumonia, eye infections, and inanition (failure to eat). High mortality rates involving the death of thousands of animals on long voyages are not unheard-of.

“With tens of thousands of animals confined in a single ship, even with the best will in the world the voyage will inevitably take its toll on the animals. Many will suffer, some will not be able to cope, and some will almost certainly die.

“The RNZSPCA recognises that this is a commercial operation with the aim of providing fresh stock for areas of a foreign land devastated by drought. But we question whether or not New Zealanders should be comfortable with treating live animals in this way.

“We believe this debate is worth having as it goes to the heart of important questions affecting the farming sector where commercial imperatives must often be balanced against the welfare needs of animals.”