The New Zealand parliament has voted to end the export of livestock by sea, a decision that will come into effect on April 30, 2023.

The country’s minister for agriculture Damien O’Connor said that the move will “protect New Zealand’s reputation for world-leading animal welfare standards”.

“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill future-proofs our economic security amid increasing consumer scrutiny across the board on production practices,” O’Connor added.

The country’s government stated a review of the livestock export trade in 2019 in response to concerns that the trade could be a risk to its reputation.

“The objective of that review was to provide New Zealanders [with] an opportunity to reflect on how we can improve the welfare of livestock being exported,” the agriculture minister said.

He added: “Our primary sector exports hit a record $53 billion last year, delivering us economic security. That result is built on our hard-earned reputation and this is something we want to protect.”

He highlighted that New Zealand’s distance from other countries meant animals exported from there are at sea for extended periods of time, adding:

“Those involved in the trade have made improvements over recent years, but despite any regulatory measures we could put in place, the voyage times and the journey through the tropics to the northern hemisphere markets will always impose challenges.”

The minister said that impact on the country’s exports generally will be small, with live exports by sea representing 0.6% of all primary sector exports.

However, O’Connor acknowledged that there will be those negatively impacted by the ban.

He highlighted that New Zealand’s “commitment to these high standards has already shown its value” where animal welfare discussions have been brought up in free trade agreement negotiations with the UK and the EU.

“[The ban] protects the reputation of not just our farmers now, but farmers of the future who want to commit to livestock farming [can be] assured that we are the best managers of animal welfare and producers of ethical animal protein,” O’Connor said.