One Million Chickens Die in Transit Every Year in Israel

Data released by Agriculture Ministry following request by animal rights group; 60,000 birds died in one shipment alone.

Caged chickens at a poultry farm in Israel.
Yaron Kaminsky

About a million chickens die in transit every year in Israel, according to Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry figures. Most of the deaths occur en route from poultry farms to the slaughterhouse.

The data show that in 444 journeys between 2012 and 2015, more than 3 percent of the birds died in transit. Some 60,000 birds died in one shipment alone. The figures were requested under the Freedom of Information Law by animal rights group Let the Animals Live.

Clause 13 in the Animal Welfare Law, an amendment passed in 2012, requires that a report be filed with the Agriculture Ministry within 24 hours when more than 3 percent of birds die during transport.

A year after the data request was made, and following repeated reminders, the ministry provided Let the Animals Live with a table showing the date of an event, the code of the slaughterhouse to which the birds were being shipped, and the number of birds that died. The cause of death does not appear, nor does the total number of birds contained in each shipment.

On Wednesday, Let the Animals Live filed an administrative appeal at Lod District Court, calling on the ministry to provide copies of 29 reports of shipments in which more than 30,000 chickens died.

“Such death rates can be caused by shipping delays, trauma during loading, higher than permissible temperatures for shipping or other reasons, which must be determined by a speedy investigation of each case,” the appeal stated. “The chicken placed on our plate is not the only one that died for the schnitzel. We can see some of them dying as the trucks pass us on the road,” the appeal added, noting that “a vegetarian diet is not only healthy, delicious and less expensive than a meat-based one, it also saves lives. Chickens are not garbage.”

The Agriculture Ministry responded that it “regarded everything associated with animal welfare as important and, accordingly, had promoted the amendment to the Animal Welfare Law. As opposed to the association [Let the Animals Live], whose goal is to persuade the public not to consume meat, one of the ministry’s goals is to protect the welfare of animals alongside meeting the demands of Israel’s citizens for fresh, plentiful, healthy meat.”

The ministry said it had provided the information requested by Let the Animals Live, adding, “We regret that while the Agriculture Ministry tries to conduct direct communication with animal rights groups, Let the Animals Live decided to bring its complaints to the ministry through the media.”