Employees at Israeli Slaughterhouse Caught Showing Cruelty to Animals Remain in Jobs

Four months have passed since a damning television investigation of practices at the Adom Adom slaughterhouse in Beit She'an, but despite being caught on tape, many of the workers shown dragging, prodding and shocking animals have yet to be dismissed from their posts.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Despite being caught red-handed showing cruelty to animals, several employees at a beleaguered slaughterhouse in Israel have been spared the chopping block.

Four months after an expose by the investigative television program "Kolbotek," which recorded mistreatment of animals at Adom Adom, a kosher slaughterhouse owned by the Israeli food products giant Tnuva, some of the offending workers are still employed by the factory. Documents presented by the company Tuesday at a proceeding in the High Court of Justice indicate that while Adom Adom's manager and two junior employees were in fact dismissed, three other senior employees who were also shown abusing the animals are still working there.

They include Adom Adom's safety supervisor, who was shown ordering undercover investigator and animal rights activist Ronen Bar to administer electric shocks to the calves; deputy manager of the slaughter assembly line, who was shown repeatedly shocking a calf that was unable to walk, and later ordered it dragged along the ground with a forklift; and the manager of the assembly line, who ordered the dragging and beating of sheep.

In a discussion yesterday in the High Court, Justices Miriam Naor, Yoram Danziger and Noam Sohlberg asked about the status of the criminal indictments against those involved in the abuse. The representative of the state, attorney Michal Michlin-Friedlander, replied that the state needs more time before submitting the indictments. The justices ordered the state prosecutor to update the court within 30 days as to developments in the criminal proceedings.

The justices watched a segment of the investigative program and were shocked by the pictures. "The film is appalling. It's hard to watch. It's impossible to carry on with business as usual. Your eyes see what they see and it's hard to ignore," said Naor.

Despite her personal feelings on the subject, Naor said, the court has concerns about shutting the slaughterhouse down entirely, as the petitioners – the organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let the Animals Live – have demanded. "There's no question that whoever should be punished, will be punished," she added.

The animal rights organizations criticized the conduct of the Agriculture Ministry, which is responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Law. They say that the state's response to the High Court proves that since the airing of the investigation the Agriculture Ministry has not done enough to prevent similar cases in the future. Among other things, they are protesting the fact that the ministry has yet to complete a procedure to formulate regulations for handling animals in slaughterhouses.

In addition to the workers who avoided dismissal from the slaughterhouse, the reply of the Prosecutor's Office, which was submitted to the High Court before Passover, shows that four Agriculture Ministry veterinarians have also held on to their jobs.

This is despite the fact that Dr. Nadan Galon, director of the Veterinary Services, ruled that they failed to carry out their duties, which include supervising activities in the slaughterhouse.

The Agriculture Ministry rejected the criticism and emphasized that the director of Veterinary Services had ordered a series of actions immediately after the airing of the investigation, including instructions to the veterinarians and the senior staff at the slaughterhouse. They also said that security cameras had been installed in the slaughterhouse, and that the supervising veterinarians have full access to these films, outside the plant as well.

Regarding the employees who kept their jobs despite suspicions of their involvement in the affair, the Agriculture Ministry says that they are awaiting the decision of the Northern District Prosecutor's Office as to whether to indict them.

The ministry notes that the four veterinarians were summoned to a hearing, after which it was decided not to revoke their certification at this point.

The Agriculture Ministry and Tnuva wrote in their reply to the court that the petition should be rejected. Tnuva emphasized that "significant and far-reaching" steps have been taken to ensure that the irregular activities documented in the film will not be repeated; these include the dismissal of the plant manager, the installation of closed-circuit cameras and restricted use of an electric prod. The company emphasized that the plant produces 30 percent of the kosher beef consumed in Israel and employs 200 workers from the Beit She'an area, so that shutting it down would not just hurt Tnuva. Doing so, they say, would have negative ramifications for the employees and the general public as well.

Adom Adom issued a statement in response to the allegations.

"This is an event that occurred several months ago," the statement read. "Adom Adom condemned the acts and took immediate and major measures, in full accord with Israeli and Australian regulators [because many of the animals came from Australia and their handling and slaughter is governed by international agreements]. In view of the measures taken, the High Court of Justice asked the petitioner to consider whether it stood by the petition. Adom Adom will continue to meticulously ensure the quality and safety of its products."

A protest against Tnuva's meat operations Adom Adom after an investigative TV show, Kolbotek, reported animal abuse. December 12, 2012.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
A shot from the Kolbotek exposé.

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