The Saudi sheep scandal is to be totally honest, an embarrassment to the New Zealand Government. It signals that the Government is so desperate to keep wealthy business people onside that it is prepared to drop our reputation for animal welfare in the poo. It signals something that is becoming increasingly obvious, scandal or not, that the Government of Prime Minister John Key has little real regard for animal welfare, despite the potential hurdles this lack of regard could put up in the way of successful trade talks.
The deal is alleged by Labour and the Greens to have broken the Governments own rules by purchasing procurement advice from a supplier with a commercial interest in a contract for reasons of harming fair competition.
The money spent appeasing a Saudi businessman who cared not one jot for the welfare of the thousands of sheep on board that ship of death is about as pleasant smelling as the god awful rotting stink that must have greeted vets visiting the ship after the complaints were aired. As a nation that prides itself on animal rights, I believe that, provided the risks were deemed acceptable, New Zealand should have ensured a vet travel with the sheep to ensure that they were in reasonable health and not unduly distressed for the duration of the journey. If the risks to the livestock were NOT deemed acceptable, and this appears to be the case, the shipment should have been halted until conditions permitted. The Saudi Arabian businessman who wanted help with the sheep farm should have been made aware of the welfare standards we hold ourselves to and that there would be consequences if we did not abide.
So it is very welcome news to hear that the Auditor General is going to investigate Sheep-gate and try to unravel the thinking behind something that as a New Zealander with a proper set of ethics, I am not proud that the Government of my nation allowed this. Whether any legal action resulting in resignations or other disciplinary measures now takes place, I am not yet sure, but for the time being we should be happy that the Auditor General is on the case.
New Zealand is better than this. And if it is not, it should be.