The Economic Affairs Committee discussed on Monday proposals to stop the practice of shipping live animals from Australia and Europe to Israel for the purpose of local slaughter, due to the harsh conditions and the suffering caused to the animals.

The debate was held at the request of MKs Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Camp), Yael German (Yesh Atid), Tamar Zandberg and Sharren Haskel (Likud), in part due to the bill submitted by Zandberg to stop the shipments altogether.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) told the committee that he has scheduled a meeting with the Australian ambassador, as well as with other ambassadors of countries from which the shipments arrive, in order to explain to them the importance of protecting animals. However, the minister said he has no influence on what goes does on aboard the ships. The MKs who initiated the debate urged Ariel to work towards reducing the number of shipments, and MK Zandberg said that if the minister does not act then the issue must be dealt with through legislation.

Committee Chairman Eitan Cabel (Zionist Camp) announced that a team of committee members would be set up to address the issue. ”We do not need to wait for laws; the treatment of animals must change immediately,” he said. ”There will be clear regulations for the importing of calves, and those who fail to abide by them will have their licenses revoked.”

MK Cohen Paran said she saw how calves from Australia were unloaded from a ship at Eilat`s port: ”All the calves were covered in excrement, from the tip of their tails to the tip of the ears. Calling these shipments `live shipments` is language laundering; the opposite is true.”

Economic Affairs Committee chairman on live animal shipments: ”Treatment must change immediately”

(Chairman MK Eitan Cabel)

She noted that the current shipments already violate the Animal Welfare (Protection of Animals) Act, ”which is meant to prevent suffering and abuse.”

MK German added: ”This is an opportunity for the State of Israel to decide that there will be no more live shipments. We need to import meat from Europe, under normal conditions, and support our local farmers.”

MK Zandberg noted that meat consumption in Israel is declining, and the increase in live shipments is indicative only of the priorities in the meat market itself.

Minister Ariel told the committee there is cross-party agreement on this issue. ”We have turned to the ambassadors of European countries and asked that they accept our request to import slaughtered chilled, meat,” he said, adding that Israel is also looking to import meat from South America, where the slaughter is supervised. The minister said he had turned to Israel`s UN Ambassador Danny Danon and suggested that he work to change the international treaty which deals with this issue.

In response, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Camp) said, ”If we wait for international treaties and Danny Danon, or for the Australian ambassador – it`s an illusion. We should set a clear timetable for dealing with this matter.”

MK Zandberg said that due to the fact that, according to her, the minister failed to present clear goals, ”The time has come for the committee to begin to legislate.”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) supported Zandberg`s call to begin with the legislation process, but MK Haskel argued that there is no need for legislation. ”We can establish quotas for the tax-free importing of chilled meat,” she said.

Yossi Wolfson of ”Let Animals Live” said he was disappointed by the Agriculture Ministry`s response and called to advance legislation that would stop the live shipments. Eyal Erlich, representing the meat importers, said animal rights activists ”behave as though they have a monopoly on morality,” adding ”we are being treated like Nazis.”

MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) told Erlich: ”Enough with the lecturing; lower the prices.”

Committee Chairman Cabel concluded the meeting by saying, ”My heart gets torn apart when I see an animals being transported on trucks for an hour, not a month. We need clear guidelines for the transport of calves, and those who will not abide by them will have their licenses revoked. We will work with the Agriculture Ministry so that the treatment of animals will change immediately, without waiting for any law.”