Israeli Slaughterhouse Employees Indicted in Abuse Case

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Four employees of Tnuva's Adom Adom slaughterhouse facility in Beit She'an were indicted Tuesday morning for a number of instances of abusing animals and causing the animals injury. The manager in charge of the abattoir and his deputy were indicted as well as two temps working for them.

Two indictments were filed in the Nazareth Magistrates Court by the Northern District of the State Prosecutors Office in cooperation with the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.

The manager allegedly provided workers with an electric cattle prod to move the cows faster on the way to their slaughter. The workers used the cattle prod "without an appropriate purpose and in a manner that caused the calves pain and suffering," states the indictment. The workers shocked the calves to move them by prodding them on sensitive parts of their bodies such as the stomach, testicles, chest, neck, head and face, states the indictment.

The employees are also accused of using the cattle prod regularly on calves who fell or lied down out of fear or because they stumbled or slipped - even in cases where the calves were physically incapable of standing up - and in doing so caused unnecessary pain and suffering to the animals.

In a number of cases the workers are accused of hitting the calves with sticks and plastic pipes in various parts of their bodies, including on their heads and backs. In many of the cases the supervisors not only knew of the abuse but also instructed the workers to do so.

The State Prosecutors Office said the cooperation between the different government authorities in dealing with cases of animal abuse crimes is another step in implementing Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's policy to strictly enforce such laws and to mete out harsher punishments in such cases. As part of this new policy, the prosecution has appointed a person to be responsible for coordinating the various bodies involved in enforcing animal abuse laws. The attorney general was updated regularly on the developments in this case, too, at his request.

In response to the indictements, Adom Adom said it condemns the acts of abuse of animals and condemned the exceptional acts as soon as they were discovered.

"We want to once again emphasize that since the exposure of the regrettable actions Adom Adom has taken significant steps including the removal of the manager of the factory from his post, the dismissal of the contract workers who were filmed in the report, clarifying and improving the work procedures and more, in order to prevent the recurrence of similar events."

Adom Adom said it has received the draft indictment and is studying it carefully. The company said the employees involved were now on forced vacation and in any case would not be allowed to work again with animals if they returned. 

The expose

The abuses at the Adom Adom facility in Beit She’an, considered the country’s most sophisticated slaughterhouse, were originally exposed in an investigative report broadcast in December 2012 on Israel Channel 2 television's Kolbotek. The segment was produced by Ronen Bar, a journalist and animal rights activist who worked at the slaughterhouse for a month and a half while secretly documenting its practices.

In the televised scenes, workers are seen abusing the animals sometimes to move them along but also just for their own enjoyment. They are captured hitting calves and lambs with sticks and electric prods, holding animals by one leg and dragging them with a forklift, throwing lambs into the air and hanging the animals upside down, apparently still alive and conscious, after slitting their throats.

The Animal Welfare Law states: "A person shall not torture an animal, treat it with cruelty or mistreat it in any way."

The workers were apparently aware that their actions constituted prohibited abuse. One worker admitted that when representatives arrived from Australia to ensure that cattle they sold to Adom Adom receive proper treatment, for two weeks there was no use of violence. However, this slowed down their work and made it much harder, he added.

In a response to Haaretz on the matter earlier this year, Tnuva commented: "The incident occurred a number of months ago. Adom Adom condemned the actions and took immediate and significant steps in full coordination with the regulators in Israel and ... regrets the incident and is acting to ensure the quality of its products."

At the Tnuva meat plant Adom Adom.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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