Gov't investigating Tnuva for animal abuse

Environment Ministry opens criminal investigation following expose program showing workers electrifying, beating, abusing cattle.

December 8, 2012 20:17
3 minute read.
A cow is hit with a cattle prod

Cattle prod animal abuse cow pain scream 370. (photo credit: Courtesy of 'Tnuva Cruelty')

The Environmental Protection Ministry, in conjunction with Beit She’an Police, opened a criminal investigation on Friday into alleged animal abuse occurring at a city slaughterhouse owned by Tnuva, the ministry said on Saturday evening.

The investigation follows Thursday night’s television broadcast by Reshet’s Kolbotek consumer protection program of an exposé on the giant food manufacturer’s Adom-Adom meat subsidiary. The ministry credited Kolbotek for uncovering “grave findings,” which included video evidence of workers abusing calves with an electric shocker, as well as beating them, standing on them and dragging them by their legs using a forklift.

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“There is no reason that animals should experience such horrible abuse over the course of their lives,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

Parallel to the investigation, the ministry is also examining whether the slaughterhouse violated the terms of its business license.

Following the Kolbotek broadcast, the animal welfare organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live filed police complaints about Tnuva for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Law, and turned to the Agriculture Ministry’s Veterinary Services, demanding a closure of the slaughterhouse, the groups said.

Anonymous for Animal Rights has also launched a campaign urging the public to boycott the company.

“The investigation reveals the systematic abuse at the Tnuva slaughterhouse,” said the group’s Hagai Cohen. “Unfortunately, these are not exceptional cases – images illustrate that supervisors instructed the employees to use these methods, and that abuse is common.

All that is left for consumers to do is to vote with their forks and refuse to finance the abuse.”

Because many of the calves at the Tnuva facility are imported from Australia, the animal rights groups forwarded to the Veterinary Services a letter from the chief scientist at Australia’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

According to an Anonymous for Animals statement, the chief scientist, Dr. Bidda Jones, wrote that the abuse occurring at the slaughterhouse involved systematic violations of international regulations for slaughterhouses instituted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), as well as Australian legislation regarding the treatment of animals.

The rights groups plan to protest against the alleged abuse on Monday afternoon in Tel Aviv, and hundreds of comments slamming the company have already covered Tnuva’s Facebook page.

In response to the allegations, Adom-Adom CEO Erez Wolf said the company “unequivocally condemns this behavior” and that it does not represent the company as a whole.

“The rough behavior – as represented in the video segment – deviated from all of our protocol,” Wolf said.

According to Wolf, after the company was made aware of the abuse, management took a number of immediate steps, including the removal of the plant manager as well as the suspension of the contracted workers. In addition, the company installed cameras throughout the plant for better supervision and control.

“All of the workers, employees of both Adom-Adom and the contractor, are receiving training and refreshers on regulations, including proper attention to and care of animals,” Wolf said.

“We again declare: Workers who violate these procedures will not be able to remain in the company.”

Wolf added that Adom-Adom would “ensure that such conduct does not occur again.”

Responsibility for the wellbeing of animals remains with the Agriculture Ministry despite the fact that a bill promoted by Erdan to transfer authority to his ministry received approval from the cabinet in June. Following that approval, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked filed an appeal for further discussion, which, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry, has delayed the legislation.

“The exposure of this abuse is further proof that we cannot forfeit the protection of animal rights to the hands of the Agriculture Ministry, whose interests are guided by those of the food industry,” Erdan said.

In a statement, the Environmental Protection Ministry stressed that it would continue efforts to transfer authority for animal welfare to its “rightful place.”

For its part, the Agriculture Ministry sent veterinarians on Friday morning to Adom- Adom’s Beit She’an site in order to clarify regulations concerning the welfare of cattle, a ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post.

The ministry, she said, is also working in cooperation with police to expedite the investigation and would provide an update when it is over.

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