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Israel approves plans to reduce import taxes on dairy, meat despite objections of rights groups
By SHARON UDASIN
05/04/2014
Finance minister must meet with animal rights groups before finalizing program; groups argue that move encourages animal abuse.
 
The government approved on Sunday plans to reduce import taxes on foreign dairy and meat products, but instructed the finance minister to hear the concerns of animal rights activists prior to signing off on the program.

The freshly approved plans, released by Finance Ministry Director-General Yael Andorn last Wednesday, would nix import taxes entirely on live calves, significantly reduce them for fresh meat and lower them for hard cheeses, yogurts and creams – about 20 percent of dairy products.

Animal rights activists have been strongly opposing the team’s decision to eliminate taxes on calves and veal in particular, arguing that such a move encourages animal abuse.

The tax elimination applies to all imports of calves, including those weighing more than 250 kg., as well as 5,700 tons of freshly packaged meat.

Eliminating and reducing meat and milk tariffs will increase competition in the relevant markets, where high prices burden Israeli families, according to the Finance Ministry.

On average, meat and dairy products constitute about 17 percent of an Israeli family’s monthly food expenditures, or approximately NIS 2,251.

“Opening these markets to imports will bring increased competition and will lower prices of products that constitute a significant expense in household spending,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

Although cabinet members approved the plans, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mandated that Lapid must meet with representatives of animal rights groups before signing the final decree, the Environmental Protection Ministry said.

Lapid must then file a report about the meeting to the prime minister before officially moving forward with these plans, the ministry added.

Led by the groups Anonymous for Animal Rights, Let Animals Live and Green Course, activists took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday protesting the cheapening of calf and veal imports.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, who had sent a letter to Netanyahu on the subject prior to the Sunday cabinet meeting, also emphasized his opposition to canceling the import tax on live calves.

“This program creates a reverse trend of encouraging greater consumption of meat, and this is at the price of damaging the environment, health and animals,” Peretz said.
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