In doing away with the budget for sterilizing street cats because of religious considerations, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel took one of the most ridiculous steps imaginable by a minister responsible for anything. Transferring the funds to research for an alternative solution is equivalent to a health minister’s decision to impose the removal of a drug whose efficacy is proven from the basket of funded medications, and using the money for research into finding an alternative drug.
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Ariel ignored the shouts of protest by animal rights’ representatives, who are certainly more authoritative than he is. The population density of cats in certain areas of Israel, the suffering caused to them by this phenomenon – insufficient food and water, injuries from territorial fights and the rapid spread of disease – as well as the damage to wild animals because of their presence in various regions around communities apparently do not outweigh the minister’s religious, faith-based judgment.
It is widely agreed that the step Ariel took will lead to an almost immediate worsening of the cats’ situation, but the minister can sleep at night. He achieved his goal – he resolved the religious dissonance bothering him on this issue, something he failed to do in a 2007 Knesset vote, when he was just an MK.
The earlier idea that the minister raised before making the absurd decision to reallocate the designated budget to research – to transfer tens or even hundreds of thousands of cats of the same sex to other countries – was ridiculed. This idea expressed the powerlessness of local authorities in the face of the cats’ population explosion, for reasons such as an inadequate budget, and even that is now taken away from them.
Carrying out such an operation would require much greater resources than those allotted today, and it is doubtful whether this is technically possible. Minister Ariel would do better to try catching one street cat, or to watch a professional cat catcher, who is liable to spend a lot of time trying, before he dreams up schemes to catch every Israeli cat.
The Pavlovian, right-wing response is also interesting because of from where it derives. Transfer is the answer to every problem, be it Jewish-Palestinian, African refugees and now cats.
There is no denying that the solution of sterilizing is brutal. If only there was another way. Cat lovers – and probably Ariel among them – would quickly adopt any such proven solution. Until then, the budget for neutering and sterilizing should be renewed, and a budget produced for researching that hidden solution to this burning problem.