Animal welfare

Animal welfare is at the heart of the livestock exporting process. Every stakeholder involved has a responsibility to ensure the care of livestock and their welfare is the highest priority.

When animals are being exported from New Zealand their welfare is managed according to the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the relevant Codes of Welfare. Their management also needs to meet any pre-conditions or requirements necessary to obtain an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The AWEC looks at a range of factors including previous export history, the type of livestock, the stocking density during the voyage, the length and nature of the journey, details about the stock handlers accompanying the animals and information about the management of the animals once they arrive, including their final destination and transport arrangements

People importing our high-value breeding stock into their countries are making a significant investment. It is in their interests to keep the animals in good condition after they arrive.

For exports by sea, MPI also considers details of the ventilation, drainage, pen design as well as fodder and water supply arrangements on the vessel.

The aim of the AWEC process is to minimise any welfare risks to the animals during their journey and protect New Zealand's reputation as a responsible exporter of live animals.

How do exporters ensure the welfare of animals during their journey?

Animals are managed under the Codes of Welfare published by the New Zealand National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC)

Animal welfare management follows the programme developed between MPI and exporters and meets requirements agreed between MPI and the importing country

Veterinarians and AsureQuality technicians supervise animal management throughout the export process

All vehicles used to transport animals are cleaned and disinfected prior to use in order to maintain the animal health status

MPI veterinarians inspect ships for approval before animals can be loaded and if they have any concerns they will not allow animals to be loaded

Veterinarians and stock handlers travel with the livestock on board the ship to their destination country and intensely supervise and provide their care throughout their journey

Sufficient food and fresh water are provided on the ship for the livestock during their journey and beyond in case of delays

Ships are stocked with medication and materials for various treatments

“I  was interested to find out if the conditions for cattle on export ships were as bad as I had seen in media, so I went on a shipment in July 2021 with 4100 cattle. I was impressed at how well the cattle travelled and their welfare during the voyage.”

“Having a vet look at cattle two to three times a day is more than most New Zealand farms. The cattle had adequate feed, shelter, water, and they were very happy and comfortable. I have no concerns about the trade and would happily show anyone the photographs I took onboard the vessel.”

- Charlotte Harris, a veterinarian from Gisborne

“I have been on shipments ranging from 3,500 cattle to 8,000 and the management remains the same,  the crew is very diligent with the planning and care of the animals. The cattle become very quiet, even the Angus weaners settle well and the dairy heifers often stretch out to give you a lick when you are working near them.

- David Barton, a veterinarian from Whanganui


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