Knesset Backs Animal Rights, but Doesn't Roll Out the Red Carpet

The doctrine of natural rights: "Out of an ethical recognition of the fact that animals undergo unlimited experiences ... suffering and pleasure, fear and joy ... I think we, as human beings and as a society, are obligated to act to defend their basic rights. These rights include, among other things, the right not to suffer from violence, from hunger or from thirst."

Thus reads the Declaration of Animal Rights, signed in the Knesset Tuesday by the initiative of Anonymous for Animal Rights, on Animal Rights Day.

In light of this, who said Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich can withstand pressure? She had not planned to be one of 30 MKs to sign the Declaration of Animal Rights (only 14 of whom actually did, led by MK Yoel Hasson of Kadima, who heads the Knesset's animal lobby).

It is no secret that human rights are more important to Yachimovich than animal rights. But her 12-year-old daughter Rama, a student at the Open School in Jaffa and a tireless collector of abandoned animals, won the battle. Rama's class was invited to the signing ceremony, and she successfully pressured her mother to sign the document. That's what you call intensive lobbying.

The animals, meanwhile, stayed outside. It was impossible to ignore that the Declaration of Animal Rights was signed without any animal representation.

When Hasson tried to bring in his family's dogs for a photo-op for the daily Maariv, he was told the cats that are sometimes photographed walking around the cafeteria were all the Knesset could handle.

Knesset policy is that seeing-eye dogs are allowed in, while other animals are not. But special requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, said Knesset director general Avi Balashnikov. He said he did not receive any such requests.

The Knesset cafeteria marked a day without meat yesterday. When Yossi Beilin, the outgoing chairman of Meretz-Yahad, discovered he had to choose between lasagna and stuffed peppers, he suggested taking protest action.

Haim Oron, a candidate for taking over Beilin's position, also took it hard, but said he was prepared to suffer for one day. United Arab List-Ta'al chairman Ibrahim Sarsur became nostalgic about his childhood when the Friday meals were considered a celebration.

An interesting coalition in favor of animal experiments for the purpose of saving lives has developed between the scientists and the ultra-Orthodox. Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka, a pharmacist, said there is no way to develop painkillers without causing animals terrible pain.

Yehuda Avidan, a strategic consultant close to Shas, thinks the whole event is "hypocrisy of the first degree," saying that developing anticancer drugs justifies animal experiments. "The Weizmann Institute is doing sacred work," he said.

This week saw the continuation of a conflict between the ministerial committee for legislation, which refuses to discuss bills for special days in the Knesset that are dedicated to specific topics, and MKs who think the special days are a great opportunity to advance related legislation.

Hasson and MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) submitted a proposal to have animal rights' groups monitor the experiments.

MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) proposed making it illegal to kill animals for inappropriate purposes.

A compromise was finally reached because Hasson is also acting coalition chairman: The laws were proposed in the Knesset plenum, but the vote will take place another time.