When the Labour government banned the export of livestock for slaughter back in 2007, we thought this horrific trade was over, it was for good reason: the long-distance trade was cruel and inflicted terrible suffering on the animals. Overcrowding and overheating (not to mention just the dangers of a sea voyage) meant that these ships would leave a trail of corpses behind them, and the survivors would be disgorged half-dead. That wasn't acceptable to the New Zealand public, so we banned it.
But as Murray McCully has reminded us in the last month, there was a loophole: the law only bans the export of live animals for slaughter. The export of live animals for other purposes, such as breeding, is still perfectly legal. And so we have this:
Guarantees have been given the 50,000 live sheep exported from drought affected areas of Canterbury to Mexico have been sent for breeding purposes, amid condemnation from animal advocacy groups and opposition politicians concerned the sheep would be slaughtered upon arrival.
The livestock carrier Nada docked at Timaru on Tuesday to begin loading 50,000 sheep and 3000 cattle destined for Mexico for breeding purposes.
But while there are "guarantees", the government is not actually going to do anything to see whether they are adhered to. So there's nothing to stop these animals being redirected to another destination once they leave New Zealand, or simply loaded onto another boat once they reach Mexico.
(Well, we can watch the voyage though the ship's AIS beacon, and journalists and animal rights activists could do the followup that the government refuses to do. But really, it shouldn't be up to third-parties to police this)
But more importantly, the animal welfare concerns which saw the slaughter trade originally banned don't disappear simply because the transport is for a different purpose. These animals will still face two weeks at sea. They will still be overcrowded in unsanitary conditions. Thousands of them will still die, and the survivors will suffer terribly. And that's simply not something we should accept. Its time we ended this vile trade for good. Farmers should consider their social licence revoked.