The cabinet failed to approve Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s proposal to cancel import duties on imported live calves at its weekly meeting on Sunday morning.
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At the request of Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervened and asked Lapid not to sign new regulations that would cancel the duties until after holding a meeting with animal rights groups and hears what they have to say on the matter.
Netanyahu expressed his concerns over the suffering of the calves during their transportation to Israel, and asked Lapid to report to him on the results of the meeting with the organizations.
The finance, economy and agriculture ministries established a joint team to prepare a plan for lowering meat and dairy prices; canceling import duties on live calves was one of its recommendations. In addition, the committee decided to appropriate some 30 million shekels ($8.7 million) to support the cattle-grazing industry and for marketing the sale of fresh beef. The committee also decided to allocate another 65 million shekels to support the dairy-farming sector.
Israel imports over 100,000 sheep and calves from Australia every year.
The initial proposal was met with fierce opposition by animal rights and environmental groups, with a demonstration being held outside Lapid’s home. Peretz also criticized the plan, saying the livestock’s suffering increases the further they are transported, and that international experts recommend raising and slaughtering the calves in the same place. In addition, encouraging meat consumption has serious environmental implications, as the meat industry – and beef industry in particular – is responsible for a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, as well as other pollutants.
The organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let the Animals Live said they hoped the proposal would be dropped, and that the government will completely ban shipments of livestock from Europe and Australia. Australia’s Agriculture Ministry reported that almost 15,000 animals died during such shipments to Asia and the Middle East last year, said the organizations.