Israel's Agriculture Minister Backpedals on Controversial Cat Transfer Plan

Israeli media published alleged letter from Habayit Hayehudi's Uri Ariel proposing idea, citing Jewish law against animal cruelty and biblical commandment to populate earth as reasons not to neuter cats.

David Bachar

Israel's Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has backpedal led on a controversial proposal to deport Israel's street cats to another country. 

The minister drew outrage and mockery after suggesting transferring the thousands of stray cats that walk Israel's streets. On Monday, Yedioth Aharonoth published what it said was a letter by Ariel, from the religious Habayit Hayehudi party, proposing the idea. It said he cited Jewish law against animal cruelty and a biblical commandment to populate the earth as reasons not to neuter cats.

After the proposal drew widespread outrage and mockery, Ariel decided to reallocate the entire budget for spaying and neutering cats to research instead of transferring the animals. This budget adds up to 4.5 million Israeli shekels a year. Ariel's decision means that the state will not transfer any money at all for neutering and spaying street cats this year. His refusal to allocate funds for this comes, apparently, from the fact that this goes against his beliefs. A local nonprofit called "Let Animals Live" is expected to petition the Supreme Court Tuesday against his decision.       

After his proposal was first reported Monday, Israeli animal rights activists condemned the minister. Opposition legislator Tzipi Livni posted a picture on her Facebook page of her playing with a black and white cat. "No way will I get a foreign passport for little one," she wrote.

Meanwhile, thousands of stray cats roam Israel's streets.

אין מצב שמוציאה לפיצקלה דרכון זר pic.twitter.com/FeZfHflcN5