It may have appeared to many of our audience yesterday that April Fools Day had arrived 24 hours early.
Officials running Auckland's Cornwall Park announced cows at the park will be shipped to far-off Mongolia. The information was revealed in a Facebook post on the park's official page.
"Cornwall Park is proud that our cows have been selected to help establish a breeding programme for Mongolian farmers."
Predictably, animal rights group Save Animals From Exploitation (Safe) called on the Cornwall Park Trust Board to reconsider the decision and not sell more animals to live exporters.
Many members of the public who responded to the announcement said they did not support the live export of animals - some said they didn't know New Zealand still did so.
"Surely they have their own cows already in their country more suited to their climate and area? I don't agree with live exports," one woman wrote.
The practice has been under scrutiny for some time. The Ministry for Primary Industries launched an independent review of the trade after the Gulf Livestock 1 - carrying 5867 breeding cattle and 43 crew - foundered off Japan in September last year.
Mike Heron QC was appointed to lead the review, to assess the assurances MPI receives when it considers an application for an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) – required for exports of live animals – in particular carriage by sea - and susceptibility of livestock to harm and distress on the journey.
The Heron review found New Zealand had robust checks and balances to ensure the welfare of livestock transported by sea, but MPI could strengthen parts of the AWEC process.
Cabinet banned livestock shipments until October 23 but then put on a conditional prohibition from October 24 to November 30. Changes for the conditional period included: focused maritime inspection of livestock carrier ships by Maritime New Zealand; restricting stock density on vessels to 90 per cent of previous limits to match new Australian standards; increased requirements for voyage reporting, including daily veterinary reports during voyages; and increased minimum fodder requirements that ensure at least 20 per cent of feed is available for unplanned delays during the voyage.
Before the Gulf Livestock 1 sank, the Government had commissioned a review of the livestock trade. That review attracted 3500 submissions.
Last year, and despite the temporary moratorium, almost 110,000 cattle were exported, with 128 dying en route, not counting the 5867 lost with the Gulf Livestock 1. Already this year, 8402 have been shipped.
Nearly two years after this review into the export of livestock was launched, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the Government is close to a decision on the future of the trade. Options being considered range from improving systems to a total ban.
The truckloads of cattle embarking ships at the Port of Napier have attracted little attention apart from hardline animal advocates. The cows of Cornwall Park are likely to be taken more seriously by the Auckland public.
It is time we heard from the Government.