RENEWED controversy swirling around the welfare of live sheep and cattle being exported overseas is old news to Doug Campbell.
He's been there, done that, heard the same arguments for and against the practice, but if anyone knows first-hand how the animals are treated at sea it's Doug.
Twenty-two years ago the former livestock manager for Wrightson's Rotorua branch was a stockman on one of three vessels which, between them, took 300,000 lambs on the hoof to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Hajj festival.
Although the majority were destined for ritual slaughter, it was imperative they arrived in prime condition and it was Doug's job to ensure they did.
The eight-deck Alyasrah he was assigned to carried 122,000 lambs, Doug and a vet from the Ruakura Animal Research Station nurse maided them for up to 15 hours a day.
In 2004, he was back at sea overseeing 2700 in-calf heifers bound for China.
By then animal welfare regulations were even stricter. He's adamant the condition his
charges travelled in on both journeys equated those of first class on a passenger liner.
Should animals show signs of being unwell-a rare occurrence -they were treated in hospital pens. Only a handful didn't make it, the mortality rate was a scant 1.23 per cent.
It's a figure Doug confidently contends is comparable with shifting the same stock tally from one farm to farm, or humans travelling en masse.
"Compare the numbers we carried with thousands packed into cruise liners, 400 on a plane."
In Doug Campbell's book, the stock's tiny death rate blows cruelty claims right out of the water.
"I've never in my life intentionally killed a sheep in transit on ships or trains, I absolutely abhor cruelty to animals, the same as I do cruelty to human beings."
There's no reason to disbelieve him.
Doug Campbell's a stockman to his gumboot tips-53 years in the industry, the majority Rotorua-based, confirms that. His career began in Hamilton as a clerk with stock and station agents Loan and Mercantile.
"I was the lowest of the low . . . the bearer of all the crap tossed at me."
Paper shuffling and tea making were never his thing, Doug's sights were set on the livestock division. "I loved dealing with animals, loved dealing with people, so it was a natural progression, I kept pushing the hierarchy until they moved me to where I wanted to be."
Doug may have got his way but as a stock clerk he remained an underling.
"I'd attend all the major sales around the Waikato with the agents and auctioneers, I soon learned to handle myself around the stock and the sale yards and how to carry more crap, that's why I'ma wee bit bent in the back, carrying all that crap."
The "crap" included chauffeuring duties. "After the sales the auctioneers and agents repaired to the nearest watering hole, I became a very good driver ferrying them home."
Over the years Doug moved up the ranks, arriving in Rotorua in 1962 as a stock agent in his own right.
"It meant I was able to throw a bit more crap than wear it."
By then "Loan and Merc" had merged with Dalgetys, its building sat where Fenton and Eruera Streets meet.
"It was known as 'rotten egg corner' because the sulphur smell was so strong there, if one person went down a manhole another stood by in case he carked it."
Farming was at its local peak when Doug hit town.
"Lands and Survey and Maori Affairs ran very, very extensive operations. I picked up a lot of that business. In those days the Ngongotaha sale yards were one of the country's busiest. We'd be selling 20,000 sheep a day. Cattle were big business, pigs too, all the dairy farms ran pigs."
The yards are no more but they remain Doug's spiritual home, so much so he insisted we photograph him on site. Doug's days were long, stock agents frequently hit the road at 3am, but there was time to socialise, Brents Hotel was a favourite haunt. He met wife-to be Elaine, a nurse tutor, there.
Our People was teasing when we asked if their eyes met across a crowded bar. The Campbells smartly put us in our place-the answer was "yes"; they married soon after.
When Doug went to the Middle East, Elaine remained at home "with four
stroppy teenagers". That trip brought a bonus. With his charges delivered, Doug was free to indulge his twin passions-travel and diving.
"It was in the region's pre-tourism days, armed guards were at the base of the gangplank. When I went into Jeddah a security detail tailed me."
Doug passed its intense scrutiny, 16 days diving in the Red Sea followed.
He's dived in places so obscure regular atlases don't feature them.
As a couple the Campbells are intrepid travellers.
"We like the more challenging and exotic places." They were in Iran for 9/11 . . . "you can just imagine what that was like". Fearing they were becoming one of those scoffed at types for "not seeing home before leaving the country", the Campbells' 2010 trip was dedicated to their homeland.
"We freewheeled from one end of New Zealand to the other, never booked anywhere, it was just fantastic."
With live animal exports back in vogue, Doug would give his eye teeth to be back escorting them but major health issues rang down his career curtain in 2012. He's licked them by keeping fit-forestry walking 10km every morning.
"I don't muck around, I do a lot of hill work but I don't do anything silly."