Animal rights groups on Sunday praised a decision by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to implement legal guidelines and tougher policies on the trade of wild animals.

The announcement came in response to a request from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

The new rules will establish a legal infrastructure for determining new policy, which Weinstein said could include a ban on importing wild animals for the purpose of exporting them to third countries for use in laboratory testing.

The policy will be subject to a hearing in which all relevant parties, including Erdan, the Health Ministry, the Animal Experimentation Council and animal traders, will be invited to provide input.

In his letter to Weinstein, Erdan said Israel’s current policies had turned the country into a “global animal trading center.” He added that wild animals were treated the same way as other commercial goods.

He asked the attorney-general to consider outlawing trade in animals trapped in the wild, but not the import of wild animals for experiments aimed at advances in life-saving medications.

In response, Weinstein said Israel was “no longer willing” to be a global center for the wild animal trade, but added that legally there was no justification for a total ban ahead of a full examination of the issue.

Regarding Erdan’s request to restrict the purposes for which animals may be imported, Weinstein said there were “serious [legal] difficulties” in implementing this because it was inconsistent with the 1994 Animal Welfare (Animal Experiments) Law. However, he noted that there was no legal impediment to forcing traders to operate through “breeding farms” in order to limit imports.

The High Court of Justice ruled last month that the Mazor Farm, a Petah Tikva breeding center, could not export a group of female macaque monkeys born in the wild to an animal testing laboratory in the US.

The animal rights group Let the Animals Live, which petitioned the court against Mazor Farm, hailed Weinstein’s announcement as another victory in its campaign against the farm.

Let the Animals Live spokeswoman Eti Alterman said on Sunday that new policies would mean the attorney-general “clearly thinks that the environment minister’s decision to ban the cruel international trade in monkeys is appropriate and legally justified.”

The group said it hoped the new policy would be “implemented with immediate affect and put to an end the terrible place called Mazor Farm.”

Alterman added that Israel’s trade in wild monkeys “puts us on par with the Third World.”

In response to the attorney- general’s announcement, the Environmental Protection Ministry emphasized that since taking office, Erdan had been championing policies on animal protection, particularly regarding the use of wildlife to promote economic interests.

“The adoption of my policy to protect wildlife by the attorney-general is a leap forward toward protecting animals and wildlife,” Erdan said.

The implementation of his policies will be subject to a number of preliminary proceedings, according to the ministry. Erdan therefore noted that he would act as soon as possible to execute all the legal and administrative requirements in order to reduce the suffering to animals.

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