Claws Out Over Animal Rights Activist's Inclusion on Parks Authority Search Committee

Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat

A number of prominent preservationists and ecologists have told Haaretz they were strongly opposed to the inclusion of Let the Animals Live director Eti Altman in a search committee for a new director general of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. They said Altman represents an ecologically damaging approach, because of her opposition to culling stray dogs and cats.

The current INPA director general, Eli Amitai, is to retire in two months, and a search committee was appointed by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to find a replacement. The committee includes Prof. Gidi Ne'eman of the University of Haifa, head of the green umbrella organization Life and Environment Naor Yerushalmi, ministry director general Alona Karo and Altman.

Eti Altman. Credit: Alberto Denkberg

In the last two years, preservationists have repeatedly criticized Erdan for preventing culls of stray dogs and demanding the formulation of a consistent policy on this issue. Erdan's line is supported by organizations like Let the Animals Live, but is opposed by nature preservation specialists who say this severely damages the population of wild animals, who are attacked by the dogs.

"When someone is appointed without, to my knowledge, any training or administrative experience in nature preservation, it means the minister wanted someone to do his bidding," said Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov of Tel Aviv University, an outspoken critic of the animal rights organization. "Altman is not neutral. The activity she engages in causes damage to preserving nature by preventing treatment of stray dogs and cats. These animals prey on wild animals, such as deer."

"Altman should not have been appointed because there's an ingrained conflict between working for animal rights and the work of an organization like the Nature and Parks Authority," a senior source in the authority told Haaretz. "It's a completely different viewpoint, as every professional would agree."

Altman said in response: "The struggle between the Nature and Parks Authority and the ministry does not concern me. I work only for animal rights and I think I'm very well suited for membership of this committee. I think it's time the authority is headed by someone who thinks this issue is important."

The Environmental Protection Ministry issued a statement saying members of the committee were chosen in accordance with guidelines and their specialism in fields linked to the work of the authority. "Altman has helped expose damage to animals and her organization works to protect all animals, including wild animals," the statement read. "There is no conflict of interests between the work of Let Animals Live and that of the Nature and Parks Authority."