The sinking of livestock export ship Gulf Livestock 1 is igniting calls for political parties to ban the live shipments of animals.
The Gulf Livestock 1 left Napier on 14 August with 43 crew members, including two New Zealanders, and 5800 cattle on-board. The vessel sent a distress signal during the early hours of Wednesday morning and has not yet been located.
Japanese rescue crews have so far found three survivors – two Filipinos and a third person who later died.
So far, Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor has distanced himself from the incident, declining all media requests.
But he did issue a statement saying his thoughts were with the friends and family of the crew, and that officials were investigating.
Currently, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is leading a review of New Zealand’s live stock export rules,
A conditional ban on the export of cattle, sheep, goats and deer for slaughter was introduced in 2007. The current review is looking at strengthening existing standards to a total or conditional ban on some or all parts of the livestock export trade.
The Green Party spokesperson on animal welfare, Gareth Hughes, said the incident showed New Zealand must stop exporting live stock for breeding.
He told RNZ’s Checkpoint on Thursday night the animals suffered from distress for weeks at sea and many farmers did not feel it was economic.
“It’s something I don’t think we should be doing,” he said.
Hughes said he had urged O’Connor to act with haste.
“I’m disappointed the review has taken so long to get to this point but I’ve been clear the Green Party’s preference is for a total ban on live exports.”
Animal activist group SAFE is calling on O’Connor to be held accountable for the incident.
The organisation’s campaign manager, Marianne Macdonald, said O’Connor needed to front up and take responsibility.
“The minister has failed and this is unnecessary suffering he has allowed to happen,” she said
Macdonald said O’Connor needed to publish the review into live shipments before the election.
“He needs to act to ban live exports quickly to stop another tragedy happening like this.”
The National Party is staying tight lipped over whether there is a need for a total ban on livestock exports.
Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett said now was not the time to blame anyone, but that there needed to be an investigation into what had happened with Livestock Gulf 1.
He said there were issues that needed to be addressed around live shipments before the party took a stance.
Bennett said the National Party would form its view on MPI’s advice from the review.
He said MPI needed to prioritise a new investigation into Livestock Gulf 1 over the current report into live shipments.
New Zealand First
New Zealand First said it supported live shipments and did not want a total ban.
Agriculture spokesperson Mark Paterson said the party supported the review currently under way.
Paterson agreed there should be an investigation into the sinking of Livestock Gulf 1 but said live shipments had large economic benefits.
“It’s a $300 million a year industry and that’s vital especially when we need a every dollar we can get,” he said.
The ACT Party also did not support a total ban on livestock exports, saying it would be a huge mistake.
The party’s rural spokesperson and Northland dairy farmer, Mark Cameron, said there were questions that needed to be answered by the shipping company as to what had gone wrong in international waters.
He said the economic and trade benefits of live export were too great to lose in the current climate.
“To line up and based on emotion create a reality that has the potential to destroy 10s if not 100s of millions of dollars would be a mistake,” he said.
Cameron said New Zealand farmers were at risk of copping unnecessary blame over the incident with Livestock Gulf 1.