The cabinet approved a bill by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) that transfers the authority over animal welfare from the Agriculture Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry during its weekly meeting on Sunday.
“Animals are helpless and today they do not have adequate protection,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who was a strong proponent of the bill. “The ministry must take authority without any demands for budget or manpower.
We are willing to execute the important task of preserving animal welfare and activating enforcement against those who abuse them.”
The bill was originally submitted to the Knesset on March 13 in a joint effort between Miller and the organization Let Animals Live, aiming to provide a mechanism of checks and balances for animal issues and to avoid conflicts of interest, according to the group. The bill would offer real protection for the country’s animals, in order to correct years of injustice to them.
“This is one of the most important amendments to the Animal Welfare Law since it was enacted, if not the most important of them,” a statement from Let Animals Live said, charging that the Agriculture Ministry had caused “tremendous injury” to animals.
“We are convinced that this is an important and meaningful step in the advancement of animal rights in Israel, and the cessation of institutionalized damages on them. We will continue to advance the bill until it passes in the Knesset.”
Anonymous for Animal Rights called the decision the “beginning of a revolution in the protection of animals in Israel.”
Miller’s bill – supported also by MKs Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), Dov Henin (Hadash), Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud), Eitan Cabel (Labor), David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), Ghaleb Majadle (Labor), Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beytenu) and Hamed Amer (Yisrael Beytenu) – arrived at the cabinet only a week after Anonymous released a report marking 18 years of the Animal Welfare Law but insufficient enforcement of violations against their rights. Anonymous had charged that despite repeated promises to the High Court of Justice and the Knesset, the Agriculture Ministry had not set up most of the regulations it had ensured.
“This bill has the power to bring a real revolution to the protection of hundreds of millions of animals that are born each year in agricultural farms, in municipal kennels and in petting zoos,” said Ronen Bar, from Anonymous for Animal Rights.
“At last efficient enforcement will be enabled.”
Up until now, enforcement of animal welfare was currently split between the Agriculture Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry, according to Anonymous. While Erdan’s ministry manages the Fund for the Protection of Animals – which includes fining for violations and issuing a green police in the parks – the bulk of the authority still remained under the Agriculture Ministry, which was responsible for determining regulations as to how to implement the law, the organization said.
“The approval of the bill in the cabinet is an important step in the protection and preservation of animal safety,” Miller said.
“As a matter of fact, by authorizing the preliminary reading of the bill, the State of Israel keeps up with countries of the world in which there is a complete separation between the bodies that care for the preservation of animals and the bodies that care for agriculture. This is truly news for the good friends of human beings.”
Henin also welcomed the passage of the bill in the cabinet.
“Protection of animals is part of the protection of the environment,” he said. “The reason that the field was found thus far in the Agriculture Ministry was historical and anachronistic. In specific cases there is liable to be a conflict of interests that the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for both cultivating and protecting animals.”
During the cabinet discussion, Erdan stressed that in the DNA of the Agriculture Ministry there is a conflict of interest between the intentions of the office and the preservation of animal welfare, according to his office.
At the meeting, 10 ministers voted in favor, and three voted against the bill – Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Meshulam Nahari.
At the end of the cabinet meeting, Noked submitted an appeal to the decision.
“The law presently articulates the need to appropriately and responsibly balance between different interests and values like protection of public health, prevention of the spread of animal diseases and agricultural needs,” her office said. “The ministry has professional knowledge and power of enforcement to take care of this issue.”