PortandTerminal.com, September 4, 2020
AUCKLAND – The New York Times is reporting today that New Zealand is suspending the export of live cattle after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1, a livestock carrier, in the Sea of Japan. The incident has raised fresh questions about the safety and ethics of transporting livestock by sea.
The Gulf Livestock 1 left Napier, New Zealand, in mid-August bound for the Port of Jingtang in China. On Wednesday the ship sent a distress call near southern Japan after getting caught in Typhoon Maysak and running into trouble.
The ship was carrying 43 crew members and 5,800 cows when it sank. Two crew members have been rescued and one victim’s body recovered by the Japanese Navy. The carcases of some of the lost cows are starting to appear near the location where the vessel is believed to have sunk.
Reaction in New Zealand
As news of the missing ship circulated in New Zealand, the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries said that it would temporarily stop considering export applications for live cattle as it tried to understand what happened during the ship’s fateful journey. The statement did not elaborate or give a timeline.
Animals rights activists say the move did not go far enough because the transnational livestock trade is rife with abuses.
“Ultimately, this is a trade that has to be banned,”
“Ultimately, this is a trade that has to be banned,” said Will Appelbe, a spokesman for SAFE, an animal welfare group in New Zealand.
Advocates say the transnational livestock trade is cruel, in part because vessels are usually converted cargo ships that do not meet animal welfare standards.
Other critics note that practice is yet another contributor to climate change by the meat industry, which has a heavy carbon footprint. The world’s food system is responsible for about one-quarter of the planet-warming greenhouse gases that humans generate each year, and meat and dairy — particularly from cows — have an outsize impact.
New Zealand has placed a web of restrictions on the export of livestock for slaughter for years, effectively outlawing the trade. But many live animals are sent abroad for breeding. Nearly 40,000 cattle have been exported so far this year, according to the ministry’s data.
There has been no “export of livestock for slaughter purposes” since 2007 in New Zealand, a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries said on Friday. Exceptions are allowed if the ministry’s director general “judges that the risks can be adequately managed,” according to its website, but the ministry says that no exporter has ever applied.
The animals on board the Gulf Livestock 1 were thought to have been sold abroad for breeding, not slaughter; SAFE has said they were most likely pregnant.
But Mr. Appelbe, of SAFE, said that sending livestock abroad for breeding did not prevent them from being slaughtered in the end.
“It’s not like they get loaded back onto a ship to New Zealand when they’re done,” he said.
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