New Zealand to end livestock exports over welfare

New Zealand said on Wednesday (April 14) it will stop the export of livestock by sea after a two-year transition period.

It cited animal welfare concerns for the decision, which will affect major trading partners, including Australia and China.

Animal-welfare groups welcomed the ban, but farming representatives said the industry was caught by surprise and unaware of any breaches.

Live exports by sea represent about 0.2% of New Zealand's primary sector exports.

This was agriculture minister Damien O'Connor:

"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 said last year it was reviewing live exports, following the capsizing of a ship bound for China that killed nearly 6,000 cows and 41 of the 43 crew members.

O'Connor said key trading partners had been informed of the decision.

New Zealand exported 113,000 cattle by sea last year.