The recent export of over 45,000 sheep and 3000 dairy cows to Mexico has been an unmitigated animal welfare disaster, yet somehow was hailed as a success by the exporter and the Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI). The animals were transported by boat on a journey that took 16 days. MPI reported that; “nothing unexpected happened” with regards to the welfare of the animals.
This shipment saw 444 animals perish at the feedlot and onboard. More would have died during transport in Mexico and of course, the mortality rate does not show the huge numbers of animals who undoubtedly suffered but survived this extended voyage.
The fact that the exporter and MPI considered the shipment a success and expected everything that happened to the animals shows them to be morally bankrupt.
Many of the 444 animals that died would have gone through great agony. Some would have gotten very weak after failing to adapt to pellets instead of grass, other would have died of pneumonia. Nothing unexpected though, says MPI and with these three little words the misery and death of hundreds of animals is swept under the carpet. After all, they are only sheep, a commodity, a ‘thing’ that gives us wool and meat. Who cares? Not the exporter or MPI or for that matter the farmers who sold their sheep for thirty pieces of silver.
Since this shipment, Mexico has indicated it wants more New Zealand sheep, as it wants to increase their herd by two million over the next few years. If we were to send these two million sheep, then 20,000 of them would suffer and die as long as ‘nothing unexpected happens.’ If something unexpected does happen (rough seas, high humidity or temperatures) then the number of casualties will climb exponentially.
The suffering and death on the feedlot and journey is only the beginning of this sordid trade. The assurances from the exporter and MPI that these animals were for breeding purposes only, not slaughter, is of course cynical spin. None of these animals will be returned to New Zealand after their so-called ‘breeding’ days are over. They will all be slaughtered in Mexico, most likely in ways that would be deemed cruel and illegal in New Zealand. Pro-farming organisation ‘Farm Foundation’ estimates that as much as 90 percent of the total slaughter of farm animals in Mexico takes place in municipal and clandestine abattoirs, rather than federally inspected slaughterhouses.
Public outrage against the live export trade for slaughter saw this trade banned more than a decade ago. The export for ‘breeding’ is no less cruel and must be stopped as well. Public concern about this latest shipment was substantial and not restricted to the urban population. The government however hopes that public apathy will prevail allowing future shipments to be approved. If you want to help these animals, show our government something unexpected by letting them know that you do not share their ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude. If we sit back and say nothing, these shipments will become commonplace as will the suffering and death of large numbers of animals.
Hans Kriek, Executive Director