Orna Banai 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
The debate in the Knesset Education Committee on the first day of the
parliament’s recess Thursday centered around the type of chicken coops the
Agriculture Ministry should mandate under new regulations.
is embarking on a major reform of the fowl industry and has been embroiled in a
dispute with animal rights organizations over the best type of
Actress and comedienne Orna Banai graced the committee with her
presence on behalf of animal rights group Anonymous, but her trademark grin and
witty repartee were all but absent as she addressed a heartfelt plea to the
ministry to protect the chickens from abuse.
“Animal abuse is a great
evil. Animals are like children and need protection. I have often said that a
society is judged by how it treats its weakest members,” she
“Israel has a chance today to make itself look better as a state,”
she went on, before pausing to compose herself.
“Chickens are not the
same as dogs, but think of a dog in a cage the size of an A4 piece of paper. He
can’t touch the ground, and he can’t bend over,” she said, describing the 350
cm.-400 cm. square battery cages in which most chickens in Israel are currently
The ministry has proposed regulations that would require all new
coops to be 550 sq. cm., which would rise to 750 sq. cm. in 2022 – at which
point all cages below 750 sq. cm. would be prohibited.
As part of the
current reform, the infrastructure would be built with the goal of 750
Agriculture Ministry Director-General Yossi Yishai said.
On the other
side, Anonymous countered with a proposal that all new chicken coops be
aviary-type coops, where chickens are free to roost and perch and spread
wings and move around.
According to the group’s calculations, aviaries
would be cheaper to construct than battery cages. However, the
Ministry disputes those numbers.
Both sides made frequent mention of the
EU directive on the matter, which mandates 750 sq. cm. by 2012. In
countries have already moved toward aviaries instead of battery cages.
Agriculture Ministry argued that reforms take a long time, and did even
EU, where the first directives appeared in 1988.
Anonymous and the other
animal rights organizations argued that there was no need for Israel to
the beginning of the upgrade process; instead, it could leap ahead to
conditions for chickens and really be a “light unto the
Veterinarians who addressed the committee from both sides were
split on whether each type of coop bettered the health of its
Farmers’ representatives were more concerned with who would
foot the bill for the reform than the type of coops to be mandated.
Education Committee is empowered to approve or reject the regulations,
to revise or draw up new ones.
Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (Habayit
Hayehudi) refused to bring the regulations for a vote, and another
expected, perhaps even during the recess between Knesset sessions.