Israel violated an animal rights regulation this week when two ships, crammed with cattle, traveled from Romania to Israel during a heat wave with temperatures exceeding 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). Romanian law prohibits live animal shipments at temperatures this high. One of the ships docked at Haifa port on Sunday.
On July 29, Romania’s veterinary authority issued a rule barring long-distance shipments of live animals in extreme heat, saying that shipboard conditions in such weather would cause the animals undue suffering. However, the two ships set sail for Israel six days later. Each carried thousands of calves.
According to the organization Israel Against Live Shipments, after the calves were taken off the ship, they were placed in sheds in which temperatures reached 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Consequently, in the cargo holds where the animals were kept on board, temperatures likely exceeded 40 degrees.
Most of the ships that transport animals to Israel are quite old and have inadequate ventilation.
“Animals shouldn’t be cooked, and especially not alive,” said Yaron Lapidot, the organization’s founder.
On hot summer days, he said, the organization often sees animals arriving weak and dehydrated, and these conditions can cause mass death. He urged the Agriculture Ministry to ban live animal shipments immediately, particularly when temperatures reach dangerous highs.
Though the ministry has stated it plans is to reduce live shipments, there has actually been an increase in the number of cattle and sheep imported to Israel over the last year. As of the end of July, the number had reached 591,000 – almost the same as the total for all of 2020.
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The Agriculture Ministry released a statement saying: "The Agriculture Ministry sets conditions for importing animals, which take into consideration the weather and the temperature inside the ships. It also inspects the certificates issued by the veterinary authorities in the country of origin. These certificates confirm that the shipments complied with European Union standards, including those related to weather. The health and welfare of all imports arriving in Israel are checked by the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary authorities. In cases which are inconsistent with regulations, an inquiry is made with the relevant actors.
"In all serious cases of regulatory violations, the Agriculture Ministry warns the importer and the relevant authorities in the country of origin and the EU. If the violations are repeated, additional measures are taken which may include prohibiting import from that particular ship or country. In this particular case, the ships set sail from Romania eight days ago, when temperatures were 29 degrees Celsius. One ship has already arrived, and the other will arrive today. The regulation went into effect last Friday, and is meant to deal with the upcoming days in which temperatures are expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius."