New Zealand will ban live animal exports from next April, two years after storms sank a cattle ship, killing 41 crew and 6,000 cattle.

The deaths of two New Zealanders among the crew of the Gulf Livestock 1, which sank during a typhoon in September 2020, helped galvanize the movement to ban exports of live sheep and cattle.

The Animal Welfare Bill was signed into law on Thursday, with the government saying it would protect New Zealand’s reputation as consumers become more ethically conscious. “This protects the reputation of not only our current farmers, but also the farmers of tomorrow,” said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

Live exports have long been controversial in Australia and New Zealand and are the subject of long-running campaigns by animal rights groups. When they go wrong, they often lead to the drowning of thousands of animals.

Earlier this year, more than 15,000 sheep drowned after a living export vessel sank in Sudan, and in 2020 a capsize killed 14,000 sheep. In 2021, 3,000 cattle were stranded at sea for three months, leaving many dead, dying, starving or extremely dehydrated.

Because New Zealand is so remote, even a trip at the best of times is often arduous for the animals.

“New Zealand’s remoteness means animals are at sea for long periods of time, increasing their susceptibility to heat stress and other associated welfare risks,” O’Connor said.

“Despite any regulatory measures we may put in place, travel times and travel across the tropics to northern hemisphere markets will still impose challenges.”

All livestock exports from the country by sea will stop on April 30, 2023. New Zealand exported 134,722 cattle last year, and live animal exports accounted for about 0.6% of primary sector exports . New Zealand only exports animals for breeding, not for slaughter.

The move was welcomed by the Green Party and animal rights activists. “This couldn’t have happened soon enough,” said Greens animal welfare spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick. “Animals have been suffering from live export for years.”

The opposition National Party opposed the bill, saying it was a “disproportionate” and “ideological” response to the “tragic sinking of the supply ship Gulf Livestock 1”.

They argue that the decision to end live animal exports could reduce gross domestic product by up to $472 million.

In 2020, Britain announced plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from England and Wales, but this plan has yet to be finalized. put into effect.

In Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently reaffirmed his government’s commitment to ending the trade, but said it would not be phased out until 2025.