8 Animal Rights Milestones in the Year 5774: Who's Not Created by God, Who?

Pets win in court; the court shudders at the plight of El Al and monkeys; the first Animal Liberation Farm in the Middle East arises, and Pamela Anderson. 'Nuff said.

Daniel Bar-On

The Jewish year 5774 smiled on animal rights in Israel, at least in some respects. At the top of the list, if for the weirdest reason, we have to place the members of the Lev Tahor sect, for inadvertently highlighting the plight of poultry.

Daniel Bar-On

1. Lev Tahor refuses to eat chickens, or their eggs, because

This extremist Jewish sect eschews the flesh of the chicken completely, and forgoes its eggs as well. It has good company; Neturei Karta and some other extremist Jewish groups do too. Why? Because the chicken has been bred into monstrosity, or as they'd put it – this isn't how God made the birds. It's about time somebody pointed out how horribly "industrial" chickens have been distorted in the name of schnitzel. These sects will however happily dine on goose, which – though abused in other ways – hasn't been bred to the point of not having the inherent body balance and bone strength to carry the weight of their insanely bloated breasts.

2. Hunting with dogs is banned

Hunting with the help of dogs may go back millennia: there is postulation that man used dogs to help hunt mammoths. Now Israel is constraining this ancient practice: From November 1, only wild boars may be hunted using dogs, and then only with a permit, obtainable from the Nature and Parks Authority. Moreover, it's against the law for the dogs to attack the hapless target: their use is confined to flushing it out, or chasing the boars away from residential areas. Officials admit however that they've been unable to eliminate illegal hunting of gazelles and rabbits using Salukis in the Negev, and this change in law won't do a thing about that.

3. Owner forced to cover abandoned dog's costs

It is a criminal offense to abandon animals in Israel. Proving it can be all but impossible except in the case of a chipped dog; and in the experience of the Let the Animals Live nonprofit association, it's all but impossible to get the police to investigate, let alone pursue charges. But it can pursue civil charges, and did, resulting in the Eilat court awarding 2,600 shekels from an errant family to cover an abandoned dog's medical bills, plus 3,000 shekels in court costs. "Animals are not objects," growled Judge Lior Beringer, adding that "Let the Animals Live" had done what the owner should have –taken care of the dog.

4. The Supreme Court finds for the Mazor monkeys

In August, a three-man panel of justices rejected the appeal of the Mazor monkey breeding farm, and ruled that no, El Al did not have to fly monkeys overseas for experiments and no, the farm's economic interests didn't have to supersede El Al's. The airline was allowed to change its business policy in order to avoid financial damage and harm to its image, ruled the justices, and slapped the farm with heavy court costs. Mazor had argued that it had no recourse but to fly El Al, and that the airline's refusal could kill the farm. El Al, supported by the Israeli Society for the Abolition of Vivisection and Let the Animals Live, said that given public sentiment regarding the way animals should be treated, it was entitled to change its policy.

5. First Animal Liberation Farm in Middle East rises to its four feet

On September 26 (26/9 – the date is not a coincidence), the animal rights association 269 will be cutting the ribbon on the first Animal Liberation farm in the Middle East. Its purpose is to shelter "liberated" farm animals, explains co- founder "Animals aren't products" Sasha Boojor. Any animal from hoary horse to gnarled goat to "used" lab rats is welcome: regarding dogs and cats, there are other solutions, explains Boojor. "We get injured animals, animals that people and farmers would usually reject, including for instance a kid with two bad legs," Boojor says. Most of the animals come to the farm, in Kfar Maharal by Mount Carmel, through vets but even farmers are starting to be in touch, he says. Re the rats, they'll actually have to come later, once the farm has suitable accommodation for rejected rodents. 269 by the way exploded onto the world scene when Boojor and others had themselves branded, literally, in public, two years ago on World Farm Animals Day with the number 269, to showcase the plight of calf no. 269 - whom they rescued.

6. Israel discovers Bat Appreciation

Israel, which boasts 26 species of bats, has finally joined International Bat Night – now you know there is such an event. Given the depletion of wildlife in modern Israel, bats now constitute a third of all mammal species in Israel. The launch of a local Bat Night followed Israel belatedly joining Eurobats, an international conservation treaty. In any case, though fruit bats are loathed by farmers and insectivorous ones are misunderstood by the general public, the local bats have their friends. A group of about 100 with lots of nursing mothers that had gotten trapped in an abandoned house in Ashkelon were found when the family moved back. The dehydrated bats were trapped by a parks inspector and taken for treatment to the Israeli Wildlife Hospital in the Ramat Gan Safari Park. Now feeling better, the bats were released back to nature in the Beit Guvrin National Park.

7. Anonymous celebrates its 20th birthday.

On August 19, the extremely in-your-face animal rights organization Anonymous marked its 20th anniversary of urging Israelis to eschew flesh and dairy entirely. The milestone was celebrated by a weekend of movies celebrating animals at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. Anonymous' claims to fame include driving the law banning the force-feeding of geese in Israel, exploitation of animals in circuses, experiments in animals in schools, and most recently forbidding the practice of factory farms holding pregnant sows in "gestation crates" where they can't move (a drive it did together with rival organization Let the Animals Live.)

8. Pamela Anderson rejects Ice Bucket.

Okay, this isn't strictly an Israeli story but Pamela Anderson deserves international chops, you should forgive the expression, for her bare-knuckled fight for animal rights. The veteran actress refused to take the trendy ice-bucket challenge and let somebody with nothing better to do to douse her with cold water to promote research into ALS. "Recent experiments funded by the ALS Association, mice had holes drilled into their skulls, were inflicted with crippling illnesses, and were forced to run on an inclined treadmill until they collapsed from exhaustion. Monkeys had chemicals injected into their brains and backs and were later killed and dissected," she wrote. And added much more. When they stop the animal testing, she'll allow the ice bath.