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Thousands of cattle exported to Sri Lanka being housed in 'horrific conditions'; 500 already dead

The Australian company behind a live export programme which allegedly left hundreds of cattle dead says it is unlikely to ship any more animals from New Zealand under the scheme.

Animal export company Wellard is contracted to deliver 20,000 dairy cows to Sri Lanka under a programme set up to improve the country's fresh milk supply. 

It has so far shipped 2000 cattle from New Zealand and a further 3000 from Australia. About 500 of the 5000 animals are reported to have died.  

cattle 1Cattle exported from New Zealand and Australia to Sri Lanka are being housed in horrific conditions, a programme broadcast in Australia alleges. 

Six cattle from New Zealand died on the voyage to Sri Lanka, data from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) shows.
A spokesperson for the Western Australian company said it was unlikely any more cattle would be sent from New Zealand under the programme.
"Any future consignments of cattle, which will only occur after changes have been made to the programme, are likely to be from Australia," a spokesperson for the company said.

"This shipment was subject to all of our usual export approval procedures. Our verification services inspectors were involved in our usual role ensuring animal welfare requirements were met before and during transport.

"We are of course very concerned to hear of any animals in poor conditions, and it's even more worrying to hear of people living in poor conditions and struggling to care for animals that are their livelihood", the company sai.

In a tweet on Thursday, Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said he had instructed MPI to conduct a "thorough review" of all proposed live exports from New Zealand to ensure animal welfare obligations would be met.

But animal welfare group Safe said it was time O'Connor stopped "sitting on his hands" and put a stop to live exports of breeding animals.

"O'Connor has a choice. He can choose whether New Zealand continues to export vulnerable cows into such appalling conditions," Safe ambassador Hans Kriek said

"Wellard is planning to export a further 15,000 cows, but O'Connor can choose to protect New Zealand's reputation and refuse to export any more cows."

New Zealand's largest company Fonterra contracts a number of Sri Lankan farmers to supply it with milk, although there is no suggestion these farmers are involved in animal maltreatment.

Wellard said it would check with its Sri Lanka representative as to whether any of the exported cows ended up on Fonterra supply farms.

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