The findings in a new report by the NGO Animals Now, marking the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Animal Protection Act, are dire for Israel’s most vulnerable creatures – the livestock slaughtered every day for food consumption.
Laws against cruelty to animals have failed to protect them around the world. Doing so would require major socioeconomic change to end the industrial food animal production of cows, pigs and other creatures. However, legislation in Israel and abroad is supposed to make significant improvements.
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In Israel’s case, responsibility for implementing the law has fallen on the Agriculture Ministry. Such an arrangement has led to a structural failure, according to animal rights organizations like Animals Now, because the ministry exists entirely to perpetuate the efficient killing of animals for economic gain. The cabinet made several decisions five years ago to improve the situation, yet the report reveals that most of them were either never implemented, or done so partially at best.
The most significant problem remains the Agriculture Ministry’s failure to institute some of the regulations needed to ensure real improvement in animal welfare. The cabinet decided that regulations would be instituted for growing and maintaining beef cattle and meat chickens, egg-laying chickens, sheep and fish, but the decision remained on paper and didn’t even pass the Knesset.
The Agriculture Ministry has yet to respond to the report, but senior officials agreed that there is a basis for some of Animal’s main complaints.
The plight of farm animals in various facilities points to the need for regulations. Chickens in Israel are held in crowded battery cages. Conventional battery cages, considered one of the most egregious forms of cruelty, have been banned in 36 nations. They are so crowded that chickens cannot even move their limbs. They cannot engage in any natural behavior, and they peck at each other’s feathers rather than the ground. Poultry growers cut off part of the chicks’ beaks to prevent them from pecking each other.
The Agriculture Ministry has yet to formulate regulations to end the use of battery cages. The farmers have a powerful lobby that has helped to block such regulations. Reform in the egg industry, which includes moving the coops to bigger, more modern structures, is an excellent opportunity to do that.
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The report by Animals Now also addresses the transport of animals. A record number of livestock – 685,813 lambs and calves from Europe and Australia – were brought to Israel for fattening and slaughter two years ago. The harsh transport conditions, from the boats through the trucks to the sites where they are raised and slaughtered, cause the animals terrible suffering. The report notes that the Agriculture Ministry issued rules setting conditions for transport, but they only perpetuated the status quo. The ministry instituted regulations for transport by truck, but has not enforced them.
Pigs in Israel are also fated to spend their short lives, during which they are castrated and their tails cut, in cages. Each year 200,000 pigs are fattened up and slaughtered in this country. The report notes that these animals live in crowded conditions. The Agriculture Ministry instituted regulations that are supposed to improve their situation a little bit, but Animals Now finds it does not enforce them.
The report details a long list of abuse of animals and virtually nonexistent regulatory enforcement. It includes a number of key recommendations, among them to complete the institution of regulations necessary for improving the state of livestock. Other recommendations include forbidding battery cages, halting the transport of livestock and instead importing frozen meat.
Another major recommendation is transferring jurisdiction regarding the Animal Protection Law to the Environmental Protection Ministry. However, this recommendation will only be effective if the Environmental Protection Ministry receives the resources and personnel to enforce the law throughout the livestock industry, which is spread across the country. Without such backing, it wouldn’t be able to fulfill its job, and the reality on the ground wouldn’t change.
A further important recommendation, which doesn’t only touch on cabinet decisions, is to encourage different eating habits in humans. It is likely that the health and environmental advantages of eating plant-based foods rather than animal-based foods will encourage consumers in the long run to change their diet.