Opinion

Israelis Who Care About Animal Rights Should Vote for These Parties

A volunteer hugs Nir, a cow fitted with prosthetic leg at 'Freedom Farm,' which serves as a refuge for mostly disabled animals in Moshav Olesh, Israel, March 7, 2019.
\ NIR ELIAS/ REUTERS

The Knesset election isn’t really a “general” election. There are many who are subject to Israeli rule, whose fate is decided in the Knesset and the cabinet – but they have no right to vote. That’s true not only of the Palestinians in the territories, refugees or children. Each year the government determines the fate of hundreds of millions of animals – in their overcrowded sheds, threatened open spaces, laboratory cages, neglected pens and polluted seawater. They don’t know that on Tuesday, Israel’s homo sapiens will be voting on their lives – and deaths – as well.

A growing number of Israelis empathize with the sufferings of animals. They’ve rejected nutrition based on the exploitation of animals and want to give them their vote. So which slate is a vote for animal rights?

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The most natural choice for animals is Meretz. Meretz was the first party to raise the flag of animal rights in the Knesset and has been the most consistent throughout the years. It has been a partner to every struggle to protect animals and can take credit for the law on preventing cruelty to animals, the end to animal experiments in schools and the halting of animal exploitation in circuses. Its platform on the subject is the most detailed and serious.

Meretz is also the only ticket headed by a vegan with an impressive pro-animal record, in addition to the vegans in the slate’s top 10.

Other parties also have a good record. Sometimes, as with Meretz, this is derived from the party’s ethical polices, but for the most part it stems from the sensitivity of individuals. In the Knesset, Hadash has been a leader on the issue for years thanks to Dov Khenin, as part of an agenda of justice and connecting the red and the green.

Ahmad Tibi of Ta’al is an animal rights activist and a sponsor of an amendment to the law on preventing cruelty to animals. Labor can boast the efforts of MKs Itzik Shmuli, Amir Peretz and Merav Michaeli – and especially Yael Cohen Paran, who’s in the 16th slot.

Kahol Lavan has recruited Miki Haimovich, who if she becomes environmental protection minister is likely to stoke a revolution in the protection of animals and guarantee environmental justice and a healthy diet for people.

In Likud, Gilad Erdan has served as a voice for animals, and has been joined by Sharren Haskel, who’s a vegan, and occasionally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. But for the most part, right-wing governments have opposed the interests of animals.

Not only candidates’ record on protecting animals should dictate the vote of animal rights activists. A battle for the liberation of animals is necessary for the democratic space overall. People have fought courageously for freedom and justice even under the most extreme totalitarian regimes, but without freedom of expression and information, without the right to demonstrate, it’s harder to effect social change.

The struggle for the liberation of animals requires a strong civil society. In a society that grants unlimited power to corporations and capital, and weakens the citizens, it’s hard to place the welfare of animals before profits. The fight for the liberation of animals requires a professional and empowered public service, well developed regulation, and fearless courts.

Only these things can stand between the real estate developer and the herd of deer, between the kosher slaughterhouse and the chicken, and protect the weaker side. In the coming election, Meretz and Hadash-Ta’al are at the head of the democratic camp – and are the only ones there without hesitation. A vote for one of them is a vote helping the animals.

Attorney Yossi Wolfson is an animal rights activist. This article represents his opinion only.