WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand has announced it is banning the transport of cows and other animals by sea due to concerns about the animals' wellbeing.
However, those transporting animals will have two years to transition to other businesses, said Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.
The country temporarily suspended transporting animals by sea last year following the sinking of a cattle ship during storms off Japan.
Forty crew members drowned, along with 800 cattle.
O'Connor voiced concern for conditions for animals leaving New Zealand, saying the government could not enforce regulations once the ships head to sea.
"New Zealand must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny if we truly want to be the most ethical producers of food," he said Thursday.
Live animal exports from New Zealand totaled $184 million, though exports normally reach only $60 million per year. Animal exports represent a small amount of total agricultural exports each year.
China is the largest customer for New Zealand's exports of cows.
O'Connor said he was not concerned that the ban might offend China.
"It's not about China. It's about animal welfare," O'Connor said. "We have a mature relationship with them, and I'm sure they understand our position."
Animals can still be transported by air, added O'Connor.
In comments, lobbyists for New Zealand farmers said farmers maintain high standards when shipping animals by sea and were surprised by the ban.