Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday ordered Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel to use the annual budget for neutering and spaying street cats only for that purpose, Haaretz has learned, rather than allocating it for research, as the minister had said he would last week.
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Ariel’s proposal to use the funds to research alternate ways to reduce the feral animal population came after an earlier recommendation, which suggested transferring the country’s thousands of stray animals to another country. The initial proposal drew outrage and mockery.
Ariel, from the religious Habayit Hayehudi party, apparently wants to avoid spaying and neutering because Jewish law frowns on these procedures. The Agriculture Ministry’s call for research proposals on reducing the stray animal population stated that these procedures “contravene the religious or ideological beliefs of various sectors in Israel.” The announcement also noted that the process is very expensive and carries a high risk of medical complications.
Let the Animals Live, an Israeli animal rights organization, petitioned the High Court of Justice last week against Ariel’s proposal. The petition, submitted by attorney Yossi Wolfson, stated that with all due respect to Ariel’s religious beliefs, “the law in Israel does not recognize the right of a minister to reject the demands of the law for reasons of religion or conscience.”
The Agriculture Ministry budget for spaying and neutering strays is allocated to local authorities that put up their own money but do not have enough to cover the costs. Since the law went into effect in 2008, more than 100,000 street cats have been spayed or neutered.