The Agricultural Ministry has still not begun to investigate complaints of animal cruelty in the form of live transports of calves and lambs for Israel’s meat industry, three years after a complaint was submitted to the High Court of Justice.
Attached to the petition were videos that animal rights activists said proved cruelty and abuse to calves shipped to Israel from abroad.
In a new petition filed last week, the animal advocacy organization Animals Now (formerly known as Anonymous for Animal Rights) is asking the High Court to order the Agriculture Ministry to make decisions regarding the complaints.
The first complaint, filed in April 2018, was based on video filmed in the animal quarantine compound at Eilot, near Eilat, where calves that arrived in live shipments are brought. The video shows workers striking the calves with clubs, plastic pipes and their hands, closing iron gates on their bodies and shoving those that are unable to move. In one clip, a calf is shown collapsed in a passageway as workers continued to abuse it.
A year and a half after the complaint was filed, the Agriculture Ministry informed the nonprofit association Let the Animals Live that the complaint would be transferred to the ministry’s prosecutions department. However, as of the filing of the most recent High Court petition, no statement regarding the disposition of the complaint had been received.
The two other complaints were submitted after video footage showed workers taking calves off ships in the Eilat Port in December 2019. The video shows the workers using electric prods, which are banned, to move the animals.
In one case Agriculture Ministry investigators demanded that the investigator from Animals Now who documented the alleged abuse testify under his own name. Despite the investigator’s concerns over revealing his identity, he agreed to do, although Animals Now said that its investigators have been assaulted by meat industry workers. However, the ministry never contacted him to take his testimony.
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“The unreasonable delay in a decision by the respondent severely harms the public interest in getting at the truth and seeking justice for anyone who broke the law. If it emerges that additional investigation is required, the chances of such an investigation taking place decline as time passes,” the petition, filed by attorney Evyatar Ayalon, states.
Despite the official policy of recent agriculture ministers to limit live-animal shipments, this year more live animals were shipped to Israel. By the end of July, some 591,000 animals had been shipped to Israel, almost the same number as in all of 2020.
Last year, the state comptroller published a report from which it emerges that the suffering of animals during shipping is ongoing. The state comptroller found that 44 percent of ministry inspections revealed faulty maintenance of the ships and the animals covered with their excrement. In 42 percent of the inspections it was found that the animals are forced to lie on wet straw and their feeding and watering troughs were empty. In 29 percent of the inspections it was noted that heat and humidity in the shops were high due to ventilation problems and in 4 percent of the inspections, force was used on the animals, including electric prods.
The Agriculture Ministry responded: “The ministry recently received the petition and will study it and present its position in court. In general, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry considers any infraction of the Cruelty to Animals Law as serious. It investigates hundreds of cases every year and issues indictments on these matters.