Claiming that the office has zero tolerance for animal welfare offenses, Agriculture Ministry officials stressed on Monday that new regulations for the protection of vulnerable hatchery chicks would be going into force without delay.

Ministry officials, Knesset members and animal rights activists attended a meeting of the Knesset’s Education Committee on the subject that day, which also addressed the possibility of expanding overall enforcement powers of ministry inspectors.

At the meeting, ministry officials presented a series of recently proposed measures toward preventing cruelty to animals in chick hatcheries, as well as the results of case investigations that have been occurring over the past couple years.

After investigating a recent incident in which a hatchery was causing unnecessary suffering to its chicks by slowly suffocating the animals in garbage bags, the ministry’s veterinary services ordered that a government inspector be present at the site until further notice, in order to monitor the health situation of the baby animals.

Today, the offending hatchery is working according to protocol, but the ministry continues to send inspectors to this facility and others around the country, on both planned and unannounced visits, the officials explained.

After investigations of the original incident conclude, the ministry will decide whether to move forward with legal proceedings against the hatchery, they added.

“This is repeated time after time,” said MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), who was participating in the discussion. “It should be clear that whoever is caught doing something of this type or similar to it will have his hatchery closed.”

Parallel to the investigation of this particular incident, the ministry has initiated a series of strict measures that all hatcheries must follow, including an obligation to delegate a specific employee with the responsibility of animal cruelty prevention, according to the officials.

Failure to comply with the new policies will cost hatcheries their operating licenses, and renewal of licenses for 2014 is contingent upon fully implementing the ministry’s guidelines, the office said.

The ministry officials likewise vowed that new regulations on the supervision of hatcheries would be launched within one month, and that their execution is simply awaiting the approval of the Justice Ministry.

Distressed by many of the methods still used to kill the chicks, Education Committee Chairman Amram Mitzna called upon the Agriculture Ministry to bring to the committee by the end of October new regulations on exactly how the farmers are allowed to perform the slaughter process.

The passage of this legislation has already been delayed for 10 years, as previous agriculture ministers have refused to sign off on the proposals, according to the group Anonymous for Animal Rights.

Dr. Asaf Harduf, an expert in criminal law and a volunteer for Anonymous, stressed that the role of the law must be to increase enforcement against welfare violations and reduce the suffering that comes with the slaughter of millions of chickens each year.

“The time has come to establish an animal protection authority, which is subject to the Justice Ministry and is responsible for criminal prosecution,” Harduf said.

At the beginning of 2012, officials completed the process of streamlining and revamping regulations related to animal welfare violations, enabling the swift imposition of 152 fines, the Agriculture Ministry said.

In 2011, 90 new animal rights violation cases were opened, followed by 85 cases in 2012 and 52 cases in the first half of 2013. Since the beginning of 2012, when the regulatory overhaul was complete, the ministry has filed 21 indictments for animal welfare offenses and is still reviewing 84 active cases.

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