Prosecutors Close Animal Abuse Case Against Soglowek Abattoir

Investigation sparked by videos showing harsh practices at poultry factory closed with no charges. Evidence was deemed insufficient, officials tell Haaretz.

Kolbotek screengrab

After over three years of investigation, Haifa prosecutors have closed the case into a poultry slaughterhouse in the north, saying no one at Soglowek Food Industries will be charged, due to a lack of evidence.

In October 2013, the group Anonymous for Animal Rights released a video of operations at the plant in the town of Shlomi near the Lebanese border. A year and a half ago, the group conducted a second investigation into Soglowek and showed similar harsh practices that were broadcast on Channel 10 television.

Tuesday's ruling follows a decision by the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry to close a similar case. In that case, the company Dabah Salah and Sons had been investigated for alleged animal abuse at its slaughterhouse in Deir al-Assad near Carmiel. A year and half ago animal rights activists said the company was systematically abusing calves.

The State Prosecutor’s Office has not yet released an explanation on the Soglowek decision, but it is required by law to do so soon.

Anonymous and the group Let the Animals Live originally filed a complaint alleging animal cruelty against Soglowek. Six months ago, in a precedent-setting request, they petitioned the High Court of Justice to let them take on the government’s role. In doing so, they would be responsible for the criminal process against the suspects, based on a section of the law to prevent animal abuse.

The organizations petitioned the court after prosecutors turned down a similar request. The government has not yet filed its response to the High Court petition and recently requested an extension.

State prosecutors in Haifa told Haaretz on Tuesday that the evidence was examined, and after the holding of hearings for the suspects, the evidence was deemed insufficient.

Yossi Wolfson, an attorney for Let The Animals Live, said the prosecutors’ decision “not to charge anyone for the serious and systematic abuse exposed at the Soglowek slaughterhouse is an invitation for continued criminality and abuse. Systematic violations of the law were exposed there, and the senior management must be held accountable.”

The Agriculture Ministry’s decision to close the case against the Dabah slaughterhouse, the largest in Israel, was also attributed to insufficient evidence, despite the copious footage.

“In most of the films no exceptional incidents were seen at all,” said attorney Efrat Aviani from the Agriculture Ministry’s legal department.

Three slaughterhouse employees were fired because of incidents, and the manager of the slaughterhouse, Khatam Dabah, said that in each case where force was used against calves it was in an attempt to lead them along or speed them up. Only the minimum force necessary was used, he said.

The cases involving the use of force against animals were not severe, wrote Aviani, who accepted Dabah’s version of events.

The original investigation in 2013 exposed a long list of alleged abuses including footage showing workers poking iron rods through cages packed with chickens to release doors that frequently jammed. The film also showed how chickens were knocked around and piled onto one another when the old, broken-down and twisted cages tipped over. 

Workers were shown using metal hooks to catch chickens that got loose, and in one case brutally disengaging a leg that was caught. In another sequence a chicken with its head stuck between the bars of a cage had it manually yanked back by a worker and apparently did not survive the ordeal.

In the 2015 investigation, an animal-rights group filmed workers pulling on chickens caught between the bars of cages and kicking chickens that fell or flew to the floor. Workers also tossed chickens on top of one another, and waved them while dancing and laughing. One worker was seen dancing with the ritual slaughterer and other workers while waving and shaking a bleeding chicken that was still conscious.