Review of live animal exports

New Zealand's approach to the export trade in live animals is being reviewed.

About the review

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has directed the Ministry for Primary Industries to identify all possible options to improve the welfare of animals being exported.  

Read the Minister’s media release

Cabinet will shortly consider a review of the trade in the export of live animals. 

Presuming we receive Cabinet approval, all possible options will be considered. These range from tightening up the existing standards to an absolute or conditional prohibition on some or all parts of the trade. 

A review would take some time. It is important to allow for an open and transparent process so that all interests are taken into account. 

During this time, any new application for the export of live animals will be considered against New Zealand’s existing requirements. 

Read more about the animal welfare export certificate process

Why review the export trade in live animals?

Animal welfare is important – to animals, to people, and to New Zealand. 

The export of live animals – in particular livestock such as cattle, sheep, deer, and goats:

  • has been an important part of our trading economy
  • is an important element of the trading relationship with some key partner countries
  • is a source of revenue for our rural communities. 

Livestock from New Zealand is highly sought after for a number of reasons, including:

  • improving the genetics of stock in importing countries
  • helping developing countries to meet their aspirations for domestic food production
  • re-populating farms after natural disasters. 

The area is a complex one. There are a number of factors to consider, including:

  • public expectations here and overseas
  • our international trade commitments
  • the impacts on rural New Zealand. 

MPI conducts a thorough pre-export certification process before the director-general grants any animal welfare export certificate.

Importers make a significant investment in importing high-value breeding stock. It is in their interests to ensure the animals are kept in excellent condition after they arrive. 

However, New Zealand does not have jurisdiction over the live animals it exports once they are unloaded into the importing country. 

What would a review consider?

A review would consider a broad range of measures, including both:

  • options to improve animal welfare practices within existing regulations, and
  • options for new regulations to prohibit – either absolutely or conditionally – specified types of animal exports.

Options to improve animal welfare practices within existing regulations

These options would both:

  • tighten up our current system, and
  • improve how we operate.

This would give us more confidence that the right animals are getting to the right place in the right way. 

1. Continuous improvement under current regulatory settings 

This would include actions such as ensuring the conditions imposed on exports by the director-general reflect new and emerging information and knowledge. 

The director-general must be confident that any animal welfare export certificate issued protects both:

  • the welfare of the animals being exported, and
  • New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible exporter. 

This is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Under the Act, the director-general can impose extensive conditions on a certificate. 

2. Targeted interventions, new operational policy, and continuous improvement 

MPI would:

  • undertake targeted interventions, and
  • develop new operational policy.

These would be based on specific risks to animal welfare, within existing legislation. 

3. Consultation with export markets on alternatives to live animal exports

 MPI and other government agencies would work with importing countries to both:

  • understand why they need or want live animals, and
  • explore alternatives.

Examples of alternatives are exporting semen, embryos, or cross-bred animals that are more compatible to the destination. 

Options to prohibit specific animal exports – absolutely or conditionally 

Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, regulations could prohibit – either absolutely or conditionally – specified types of live animal exports. 

1. Absolute prohibition on the export of livestock 

This would involve developing regulations to set out which animals could not be exported. 

Regulations could also prohibit a mode of export – for instance, by sea or by air. 

2. Conditional prohibition on the export of livestock

Conditional prohibition would effectively shift the approach – from generally approving livestock exports to prohibiting them unless the director-general granted prior approval. 

In approving an export, the director-general would have to be satisfied that the risks could be mitigated to both:

  • the welfare of the animals being exported, and
  • New Zealand’s reputation.

The director-general could also impose conditions on any approval.

The exporter would then need to obtain an animal welfare export certificate under the usual pre-export certification process. 

Who to contact

If you have any questions, email

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