A ban on exporting animals for slaughter overseas will be reinforced in law, under proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act.
The Government has released a discussion paper outlining its plan to have a national animal welfare strategy for the first time.
As part of that, it's planning to convert the large number of existing welfare codes that set minimum standards into legally enforceable regulations, which means people can be prosecuted for breaking them.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter says the regulations will formalise rules for live animal exports, allowing animals to be sent overseas for breeding but not slaughter.
"They will effectively be a new code of welfare," Mr Carter says.
"For animals for export for slaughter, New Zealand currently does not allow animals to be exported. That is enforced through some customs legislation.
"Under the arrangements that I'm proposing with this strategy, the prohibition on animals leaving New Zealand for slaughter will be contained in the animal welfare legislation."
Mr Carter says the new strategy won't affect exemptions to current codes covering areas such as religious slaughter practices and the use of sow crates in the pig industry.
The discussion document is open for submissions until the end of September.