Thursday, June 18, 2015

Time to ban exports for breeding too

When New Zealand originally banned the export of live animals for slaughter, it was driven by animal welfare considerations (and concerns about how rich European and North American customers would respond to them). The trade was cruel, and what happened to the animals at the other end was even crueller. But the trade in animals for breeding was allowed to continue, despite it using the same cruel ships, on the basis that it wasn't as bad.

Murray McCully's sordid Saudi sheep bribe blows that out of the water. Yes, they airfreighted 900 pregnant sheep to Saudi Arabia, so the trip was nowhere near as stressful. And then when they got them to the other end, the lambs died:

High numbers of New Zealand bred lambs on a controversial demonstration farm in the Saudi Arabian desert have died soon after birth.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, which is running the operation, said it was not responsible for animal welfare at the farm, which is intended to showcase New Zealand agriculture.

The Government flew 900 pregnant sheep to the Saudi farm late last year as part of an $11 million deal with the farm's owner, Hamood al-Ali al-Khalaf, whose anger over the cancellation of live sheep exports was preventing a free trade deal with the Gulf states.

By December, the lambs were being born and promptly began to die. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise could not confirm exactly how many had died but described it as "high losses".

According to One News' Heather du Plessis-Allan, the fatality rate was 75%, with some lambs dying of starvation. That's about fifteen times higher than the death rates in New Zealand, and its an animal welfare nightmare. But NZTE seems to be trying to wash their hands of it because
the welfare and treatment of the lambs at the demonstration farm were matters for the Saudi farmer Mr Al-Khalaf

Bullshit. NZTE exported them, and they are morally responsible. And what they're responsible for here is an animal welfare disaster.

Quite apart from showing what a crazy idea McCully's sheep bribe was, this also casts doubt on the entire breeding export industry. And we can't let New Zealand exporters continue to ignore it. We simply cannot permit animals to be exported into conditions where they will suffer more than they do on a New Zealand farm. And if farmers aren't willing to guarantee that, we cannot let them export at all.