Netanyahu Orders Panel to Take New Look at Animal Cruelty Laws

Committee to examine making Environmental Protection Ministry responsible for the enforcement of animal protection.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a committee Monday to examine the possibility of giving the Environmental Protection Ministry the power to enforce laws against animal cruelty, Netanyahu’s bureau announced.

The ministry already runs its own network for helping animals and assists animal rights groups, but it doesn't have the authority to enforce the law or open investigations into cases of abuse.

That power lies with the Agriculture Ministry. Opponents of the current arrangement say that animals are not granted adequate protection when the ministry charged with overseeing the animals' welfare also represents the interests of the farmers who own those animals.

Experience has shown that the Agriculture Ministry has not dealt with the way cattle are treated on the way to the slaughterhouse or whether to mandate that chickens have a larger living space, both of which are issues that would pit the agriculture industry against animal rights activists.

The committee was established following a discussion in the cabinet meeting on October 13, during which Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni proposed moving responsibility for enforcing the law from the Agriculture Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Over the objections of Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, Netanyahu said the issue should be considered. He said he had changed his opinion on the issue of cruelty to animals after reading the book “A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.

“I realized from the book that animals have more of a consciousness than we realized. That disturbs me and makes me think twice,” Netanyahu told the ministers at that meeting.

Netanyahu's newfound love of animals leads to new panel. Illustration by Amos Biderman.

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