Israeli Agriculture Minister Supports Live-animal Shipments

Uri Ariel argues local market can’t meet demand, and he opposes the Knesset bill, which cuts live shipments and increases frozen meat imports, arguing it would cause layoffs and spike meat prices

File photo, cows to the slaughter.
Bloomberg

Opposition from Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel threatened Wednesday to disrupt the passage of a government bill banning shipments of live animals to Israel for slaughter.

The bill, which aims to reduce the suffering of hundreds of thousands of animals shipped to Israel for slaughter each year, is being promoted behind the scenes by Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to political sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill Sunday, but figures close to Ariel argued that live shipments could be reduced without legislation by lowering taxes on imported frozen meat.

Ariel said the bill would harm Israeli consumers because the country’s livestock farmers cannot meet the demand for meat. Also, slaughterhouses handling the imported animals would face layoffs.

“Abolishing the shipments is not a proportionate decision and would cause meat prices to increase by tens of percent,” Ariel said.

“It would also lead to dismissals in the first circle for a lot of Israelis. All along we are looking at two interests: on the one hand lowering the cost of living, and on the other, reducing the live imports to Israel and protecting animal welfare.”

The bill, sponsored by coalition MK Miki Zohar (Likud) and opposition MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and supported by 28 MKs from both sides of the aisle, would increase import of customs-free fresh meat in parallel with reducing live shipments.

It would reduce the quota for live animal imports in 2019 to 75% of the quota in 2017; from 2020, the quota would diminish by 25% each year.

Zandberg called Ariel’s objection “cruel.” Zohar said that it is “regrettable and aggravating that the minister responsible for animal welfare, of all people, is trying to torpedo a move that could prevent terrible suffering by hundreds of thousands of animals a year. The prime minister and the ministerial committee categorically supported this moral and important bill.”

Political sources relate that after videos were published documenting animals traveling by ship from Australia to the Middle East, Sara Netanyahu said she had urged her husband to do everything in his power to stop the “terrible suffering.” This week she applauded the committee’s approval of the bill, saying, “No living creature deserves to experience such horrible suffering, and we as a society must not accept the existing situation.” The prime minister himself also praised the decision in a Facebook post.