Israel's Ministry of Cruelty

It’s been obvious for years to any reasonable person that a ministry in charge of an industry dealing with food derived from animals cannot possibly be charged with the prevention of cruelty to animals

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Dogs scheduled to be euthanized in the Golan Heights
Dogs scheduled to be euthanized in the Golan HeightsCredit: Yael Mendelovich
Orly Vilnai
Orly Vilnai

He supports the shipment of live animals, during which calves and sheep are subjected to horrific suffering and abuse. Last week an inspector from his ministry accompanied a hunter who shot some dogs in Majdal Shams on the Golan heights – a mother, father and puppy, who were looked after by the town’s residents. Shooting dogs has become routine; meanwhile, he seriously proposed transferring cats across the border.

In general, the person heading the ministry charged with enforcing the law against cruelty to animals does everything he can to cause them lethal cruelty, refusing to lift a finger to reduce their suffering or prevent their deaths. His name is Uri Ariel, and he is the minister of agriculture.

It’s been obvious for years to any reasonable person that a ministry in charge of an industry dealing with food derived from animals cannot possibly be charged with the prevention of cruelty to animals. The Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, firstly and openly, supports the interests of farmers. These interests include keeping animals under conditions that cause them great suffering, such as overcrowding chickens to the point that they cannot move. There is a clear conflict of interests here. However, the minister insists on retaining the authority to enforce the law against cruelty to animals, while in practice riding roughshod over this law.

The current issue is the wholesale killing of dogs and cats that were confiscated six months ago from a non-profit charity organization called Girgurim. Inspectors at the site found animals that were bleeding, injured, starving and sick. Over the last few months the animals were rehabilitated in an impressive way at a protected facility run by the Agriculture Ministry. They all look well now, having been immunized and neutered.

Considerable time and money went into their care, which is obviously very commendable. However, it turned out recently that some of the dogs are afflicted with Leishmaniasis, caused by a sand-fly bite. Despite the investment made and the fact that only a few dogs and none of the cats are affected, it was decided to euthanize all the confiscated animals.

Why was such a sweeping decision taken? What about considering some other opinions in addition to the one taken by the ministry? Why kill the cats as well, even though their chances of contracting the disease are miniscule? Perhaps it’s because the ministry is accustomed to a policy of mass extermination? It has also decided on killing hundreds of hyraxes out of concern that they may transmit a certain Leishmania virus.

Imagine an epidemic in Israel where it’s decided to eliminate all people who might be affected. That would be insane and irrational. But when it comes to animals, anything goes.

Talking to experts has revealed that not all types of Leishmania are dangerous, and for some types it’s possible to prevent contagion by putting special collars on the animals. There are also successful treatments for affected animals. This is a rare disease with slim chances of becoming an epidemic. Why go for the most extreme solution? In the meantime, the devoted people at Let the Animals Live have obtained an injunction against the euthanizing of the confiscated animals, and a crucial court hearing, open to the public, is scheduled for Thursday. Outside the court there will be a demonstration against the killing of animals.

The Agriculture Ministry has said in response that “being close to animals carrying the parasite constitutes a real danger to public health and to other animals. Most of the animals at the facility have the Leishmania infantum parasite which produces severe and contagious illness in animals and humans, affecting internal organs to the point of death. Even animals ostensibly found to be ‘clear’ could be carriers, transmitting the disease to humans and other animals. Moreover, it should be noted that the disease is not preventable, and even prolonged treatment with drugs does not afford a complete cure. People or animals remain carriers and could remain contagious. Thus, out of grave concern for the public’s health and in an attempt to prevent the spread of this disease, the ministries of agriculture and health have taken the position that these animals must be euthanized.”

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