Eight Major Victories for Animal Rights in 2013

From the world’s first vegan pizza to a treatment for tortoises inspired by a device used on terror victims, here are the major events that provided more creatures comfort in Israel this year.

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

1. Netanyahu has epiphany: Animals are aware

Do animals have souls? Actually it’s debatable whether people do, let alone fruit flies, but one thing’s for sure: animals can feel. Even the ancients knew that much, and now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does, too.

The Torah advocates animal rights, but it also gave man dominion over animals, which led to horrific abuses, as described in simple, shattering terms by Hebrew University historian Yuval Noah Harari in his groundbreaking book “A Brief History of Humankind.”

On October 13, 2013, the PM startled his ministers with a monologue on animal feelings: He had read Harari’s book and realized that animals have consciousness, Netanyahu explained. The following month he demanded to be kept briefed on the growing international campaign against meat, adding that he and Sara barely touch the stuff.

2. Domino’s launches vegan pizza in Israel

Veganism is all the rage in Tel Aviv. Now pizza chain Domino’s has picked up the gauntlet in rare style, using Israel as its launchpad for the – hold onto your gondolas – vegan pizza. It costs the same as its other pizzas. (But didn't do great in the  Haaretz taste test...)

3. El Al, monkeys win in court

The Mazor monkey farm has been in the news for years, not least because animal-rights movement Let the Animals Live has been trying to shut the breeding farm down and prevent it from exporting macaques for experiments. In November 1999, after five years of flying the monkeys as cargo, conscience-stricken El Al balked. Mazor sued and won – but come October 2013, the appellate court reversed that ruling in favor of El Al and the macaques. If 100 airlines refuse to touch the business, there’s no reason for El Al to be forced to do so against its will, ruled Judge Amiram Benyamini.

A chicken in a pen.
The broken shell of this tortoise is being healed using technology created for terrorism victims.
Animal rights activists demonstrate for the closing of  Havat Mazor monkey breeding farm.
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A chicken in a pen.Credit: Dror Artzi
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The broken shell of this tortoise is being healed using technology created for terrorism victims.Credit: Tibor Jager
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Animal rights activists demonstrate for the closing of Havat Mazor monkey breeding farm.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

4. Device for terror victims saves tortoise

A tortoise with a broken shell is a sorry beast, doomed to premature death from infection – if not put out of his misery first by predation.

Succor usually involves drilling screws along the lips of the break and wiring the pieces together. But when the animal hospital at the Zoological Center of Ramat Gan fielded a tortoise with a shattered shell, serendipity brought the reptile to the attention of Dr. Maurice Topaz from the plastic surgery department at Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center, Hadera.

Topaz had invented a device to help terror victims who had lost large areas of skin avoid skin grafts. Instead of brutal screws and wire, this simple device involves glue and rubber bands.

5. Judge calls for animals to have independent legal rights

Sitting on the case of an abused dog in May, Haifa District Court Judge Daniel Fisch went far beyond his duty – which was to decide whether one Saliman Nasser had abused his dog (yes) – and urged the Knesset to grant animals legal rights.

Animals have no specific legal rights under Israeli law, but they should, Fisch wrote. Moreover, humanity’s duties toward animals should not be based on arbitrary compassion (as a prerogative of ownership) but on criteria similar to guardianship. He also noted that Darwin’s theory of evolution had proven that there is no rational justification for viewing any specific species as “superior.”

Except cats, of course, but he forgot to mention that.

6. Horrified by TV exposé, Knesset debates slaughtering practices at Soglowek

In November, appalled by the TV show Kolbotek’s exposé of chicken abuse at processed-meats maker Soglowek, a Knesset committee called a special session. Even the revolted Rabbinate snarled that it would rescind Soglowek’s kashrut license if the meat company didn’t clean up its act. Soglowek CEO Pini Kamari metaphorically cringed and, while saying this and that in the company’s defense, admitted that not all was well, adding that the company would improve worker training and enforcement.

7. Tnuva: Yeah, animals don’t like being killed

Which brings us to another meat company, Tnuva’s Adom Adom, which the same TV investigative show (Kolbotek) documented engaging in particularly brutal animal treatment. Here’s a riddle, dear reader. Who said the following?

“While consumers of other goods can believe their production does not involve suffering and pain … consumers of meat products cannot assume that for the animals from which the products are made, since by nature, slaughter involves intense suffering and pain to the animals.”

Hmm? Who? It was Tnuva itself, in court, responding to two class-action motions against it, one claiming the company had lied to consumers about its strict standards and fair treatment of animals. Yet again the rabbis also became involved and threatened to yank the company’s kashrut license. In any case, Tnuva fired all workers found to be brutalizing the animals.

8. Knesset: Eating chicken is foul?

And as year-end rolled round, on December 23 the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee put off approving new regulations governing the slaying of unwanted male chicks – but its chairman, MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnuah), stated, “The Knesset will warn the public about the moral price of eating poultry … The Knesset cannot decide for consumers if they will be vegetarian or vegan,” but it can point out the downside of eating birds.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), a veteran fighter for animal rights, stated it outright: “The only moral choice is veganism.”

The broken shell of this tortoise is being healed using technology created for terrorism victims.Credit: Tibor Jager