Nelson Mail

Kiwi cattle exported to ‘appalling’ situation

- Gerard Hutching

Hundreds of New Zealand and Australian cattle exported to Sri Lanka to set up a dairy programme have allegedly died in appalling conditions, animal welfare group Safe says.

Australia state broadcaste­r the ABC has run a story alleging the Australian Government sponsored programme has left farmers broke and, in some cases, suicidal.

Australian animal export company Wellard has acknowledg­ed problems with the programme, which has so far sent 5000 cattle out of a planned 20,000. About 500 of the 5000 have died. ‘‘A handful of the 68 farmers selected by the Sri Lankan government to receive some of the 5000 cattle shipped to date did however fail to follow the prescribed herd management advice processes, which has caused some animal welfare issues on those farms. As a result, the farmer selection criteria will change,’’ Wellard said.

New Zealand dairy company Fonterra contracts a number of Sri Lankan farmers to supply milk, but there is no suggestion these farmers are involved in animal maltreatme­nt.

Safe spokesman Hans Kriek said Wellard failed to provide promised support, according to the Sri Lankan farmers, many of whom were now barely able to support their own families or animals.

New Zealand’s apparent lack of concern for the fate of animals once they left its shores was ‘‘deplorable’’.

‘‘Live export corporatio­ns are sending animals to far-flung countries where untold horrors could await them. The horrific images from ABC today prove that,’’ Kriek said.

‘‘Once a cow leaves New Zealand shores, we have no idea what happens to her. The European Union is ahead of New Zealand on this.

‘‘They voted in February to end the live export of animals to countries that fall below their animal welfare standards. We need to follow their lead. Our reputation is at risk if the Government allows animals to be exported into such appalling conditions.’’

In a letter to Safe, Minister of Agricultur­e Damien O’Connor said he had no plans to stop the export of breeding animals. ‘‘I was made aware of this issue in January and sought advice from MPI officials at that time.

‘‘I am comfortabl­e that New Zealand has a comprehens­ive legislativ­e framework in place that covers the wellbeing of live animals being exported. The legal requiremen­ts are set out in the Animal Welfare Act.

‘‘New Zealand does not routinely export live animals to Sri Lanka and there have been no exports there for two years,’’ O’Connor said.

In 2017, New Zealand exported $94 million worth of cattle, mostly to China.

The ABC said farmers and animal rights groups, as well as Sri Lanka’s auditor-general, want the export project stopped because they say it is poorly planned and inhumane.

The farmers said the ‘‘highyieldi­ng, pregnant dairy cows’’ they were promised were overpriced, unhealthy and infertile.

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokeswoma­n said the programme was an Australian one in which MPI had no direct involvemen­t.

 ??  ?? Emaciated cattle on a Sri Lankan farm.
Emaciated cattle on a Sri Lankan farm.
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