50,000 New Zealand Sheep Headed for Mexico

19 Jun 2015 3:48 PM | Deleted user

A massive shipment of 50,000 live sheep and 3000 cattle has sparked outrage from an animal welfare group.

At the Port of Timaru on Wednesday afternoon, the livestock carrier Nada began loading what will be the largest ever shipment of live animals to leave New Zealand.

The shipment is bound for Mexico for breeding purposes to counter a recent drought, according to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

New Zealand does not export livestock for slaughter and has not done so since a Customs Export Prohibition Order was put in place in 2007.

SAFE for Animals executive director Hans Kriek said previous shipments of animals exported for breeding had numbered in the hundreds, not tens of thousands.

"Fifty thousand sheep is suspicious; normally that number is for slaughter," he said.

"In a shipment this large, many animals will die on the journey. Sheep die of inanition, a refusal to eat the dry nuts fed on the ship.

"The government takes the attitude that if animals are exported for breeding stock, it's OK. Doesn't the journey matter? And how does the government guarantee the welfare of the animals once they reach their destination?

"I do not believe for a second 50,000 sheep can be transported humanely."

The MPI responded by saying "with all live animal exports, strict animal welfare requirements need to be met before and during each shipment. Before animals are transported they are inspected at the port by MPI veterinarians to determine they are 'fit for travel' and their transport is sufficient." 

MPI said during the two-week voyage the exporter must meet requirements around water, food, space and facilities. The sheep must be accompanied by suitably experienced stockmen and at least one veterinarian.

"Once the sheep arrive in Mexico and are unloaded the importer becomes responsible for their welfare."

Green Party MP and spokeswoman for animal welfare Mojo Mathers said: "New Zealanders will be rightly concerned about the sheer number of animals being exported on this ship, and concerned for the animals' welfare.

"This is a huge number of animals that need to be looked after, fed and watered, properly and humanely, in confined quarters for a long journey.  

"We need to monitor what happens to these animals on the way over to Mexico, what state they're in when they arrive, and what happens to them after they disembark."

PrimePort chief executive Phil Melhopt said the loading was expected to take 14 hours and the ship would leave in the early hours of Thursday morning. Seventy stevedores and port workers were involved in the loading.

The shipment has been shrouded in secrecy. The ship's arrival was not listed on PrimePort's online shipping list.

Local Timaru livestock brokers and shipping agents refused to comment and it was not until MPI were approached that details of the shipment were obtained.

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