Largest Slaughterhouse in Israel Reopens Days After Being Shut Down Over Severe Animal Abuse Allegations

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A scene from the Channel 2 report showing goats in an overcrowded pen at the Dabbah slaughterhouse. Credit: Channel 2

The Dabbah slaughterhouse in Deir al-Assad in northern Israel was allowed to resume operations just a few days after television footage showed it severely abusing animals.

In response, two NGOs petitioned the High Court of Justice to demand that the slaughterhouse remain closed until the allegations of abuse have been thoroughly investigated. It also demanded that stiff punishments be imposed, including suspension of the supervising veterinarians and replacement of the workers and management.

Dabbah is Israel’s largest slaughterhouse, with 120,000 animals slaughtered there every year.

Two weeks ago, the Agriculture Ministry ordered work at Dabbah halted due to suspicions that it was violating the law against cruelty to animals. Early last week, the slaughterhouse resumed operations for one day, but the ministry shut it down again after Channel 2 television aired an investigative report last Sunday documenting animal abuse at Dabbah.

Later that same week, however, Dr. Sergio Dolev, the veterinarian who heads the ministry department responsible for supervising animal products, held a hearing for the slaughterhouse’s manager. Afterward, the ministry allowed it to resume full operations.

Channel 2’s footage showed animals still alive and breathing after their throats were slit. Some of them got up on their legs and attempted to walk. In addition, a systematic use of beating, kicking and electric shocks was revealed. Animals that didn’t proceed along the course toward their slaughter were repeatedly shocked all over their bodies, even when they could not move due to the overcrowded conditions. In some cases they were hit hard over their backs with an iron gate.

Employees were documented grabbing lambs by the legs and dragging them along the ground, pulling their heads or tails, kicking or beating them with sticks and brutally closing the pens on them. Other employees were seen pulling the tails of calves and pulling them off while they were still conscious. The investigation showed how sheep were made to jump off trucks, with some of them falling and being beaten by employees who were trying to speed them along.

The High Court petition, filed by the SPCA and the Anonymous animal rights organization, argued that the Channel 2 report revealed fundamental problems at Dabbah. The workers hadn’t been trained “in the slightest”; managers “had no interest at all in obeying the law”; the supervising veterinarians “betrayed their responsibility”; and a “criminal culture of animal abuse and indifference to their suffering reigned” throughout the slaughterhouse.

Consequently, it said, the petitioners had trouble understanding how work was permitted to resume so soon after the hearing, as the few days that elapsed were clearly insufficient to have fixed all these flaws.

It also argued that Dabbah’s case attested to a “colossal failure” to implement the lessons of a similar case three years ago, when animal abuse was discovered at the Adom Adom slaughterhouse.

The ministry told Haaretz that during the hearing, the ministry had presented Dabbah’s management with “a long list of instructions for correcting the site’s flaws,” including installing cameras, improving the holding pens and installing ramps for unloading the animals.

“By law, once the problems were corrected, the slaughterhouse is entitled to resume operations,” it added.

Dabbah said that immediately after it learned of Channel 2’s findings, “disciplinary steps were taken against the workers involved, including dismissals. In addition, the company worked together with the [ministry’s] Veterinary Service to correct the problems.”

The company doesn’t believe the findings “justify stopping the slaughterhouse’s operations and/or canceling its license,” it added.

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