An estimated 10,000 people participated in an animal rights march in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, the largest demonstration of its kind ever held in Israel.
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The parade, now in its third year, was held to raise awareness of the violation of animal rights. Demonstrators marched from Gan Meir park to Rabin Square, where a rally was held. Participants chanted and held up signs protesting consumption of meat and dairy products, as well as placards opposing animal experimentation. “Justice, compassion, veganism” and “Meat is murder” were chanted repeatedly. Some marchers also brought their dogs with them.
Parade organizers called for a comprehensive investigation into the torching of a kennel belonging to the Let the Animals Live nonprofit in the northern town of Sakhnin, demanding heavy penalties for the perpetrators. They also called for the cessation of shipments of live calves and lambs from Australia and Europe, stopping the poultry market reforms, increasing budgets for the sterilization or neutering of cats and dogs, as well as imposing criminal responsibility on directors of corporations found abusing animals.
“While we are here tonight, the conversation elsewhere is quite different. I imagine we’ll be accused of being disconnected from reality, as part of the Tel Aviv bubble” said journalist and rally moderator Orly Vilnai, referring to recent terror attacks. “We must continue this conversation in order to remain sane,” she added. She noted that, a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable for so many people to attend a rally supporting animal rights.
Journalist Miki Chaimovitz added that “for too many years, it seemed we were a small, marginal group that shouldn’t be taken seriously. The turnout tonight shows this isn’t the case. There are many of us here because it’s time to change people’s attitudes toward animals. I am fully aware that there is always more important news. But I have news for you: animal rights is an important topic.”
Chaimovitz emphasized that “where they burn dogs, there will also be the burning of people. A society that is indifferent to animals will also be indifferent to its weaker members.”
Attorney Sagiv Levy, legal adviser for Let the Animals Live, called for stiffer sentences for people convicted of harming animals. “During the holidays, our dog shelter in Sakhnin was burned down by evil people. Our beloved dogs Heidi and Max were burned alive, hugging each other. From this stage, I call on the police, state prosecutors, the attorney general and the courts to desist from making ridiculous plea bargains. No more meager fines. Whoever torched the kennel should go to jail. Those who broke every possible law regulating animal slaughter at [the slaughterhouses of ] Adom Adom, Dabbah and Zoglowek should be imprisoned. We are the public and we cry out – no more!”
The march was initiated and organized by a number of groups, including Let the Animals Live, Anonymous, Vegan Friendly, the Israeli Society for the Abolition of Vivisection, the Ginger (Zangvil) animal rights group, the Front for Animal Liberation, Freedom Farm, and others.
The organizers highlighted numbers published in Haaretz three months ago, according to which 400 files are opened every year in relation to cruelty to animals, but more than 90 percent of the cases are closed without any indictment.
Organizers also said that more than 100,000 healthy dogs are put down each year in kennels belonging to local authorities. Furthermore, the country has more than 2 million stray cats. They multiply rapidly, but budgets for sterilizing or neutering them are inadequate for even 10 percent of the animals.
Israel imports more than 200,000 calves and lambs each year from Australia and Europe for its meat industry, the organizers noted, while more than 200 million roosters are slaughtered annually for poultry consumption. More than 9 million hens are kept in confined cages that hardly allow for movement, with 4.5 million male chicks destroyed every year in the eggs industry.
In 2014, they added, experiments were conducted on 340,000 animals — a 13 percent increase over the preceding year.
The rally’s organizers claimed that polls show that between 3-5 percent of Israelis are vegan and 8 percent are vegetarian.