The Knesset approved in its first reading a bill that would strengthen the authorities that patrol animal cruelty, making significant amendments to the current Animal Welfare Law.

The bill, launched by MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor), Dov Henin (Hadash) and Uri Ariel (National Union), passed the first reading on Tuesday night, and aims to remediate the weaknesses in today’s enforcement mechanisms.

While an Animal Welfare Law has existed in the country since 1994, the MKs and many animal rights organizations argue that its regulations do not properly translate into actions of enforcement.

The new bill would grant additional powers to inspectors to ensure that people are complying with the Animal Welfare Law, according to a spokeswoman for Henin. Included in the bill are mandates for surprise inspections of all facilities that contain animals – such as farms, stores and other institutions. Only through such mechanisms will it be possible to ensure the implementation of the regulations regarding animal treatment, the spokeswoman wrote.

“It’s about time that the provisions for animal protection will not remain on paper but will be implemented in reality,” Henin said in a statement released by his office. “The Supervision Bill, which was confirmed [Tuesday] in its first reading, is a huge step in that direction.”

To Eti Altman, the founder and spokeswoman of the organization Let The Animals Live, the new bill is a very positive move, but she emphasized that “the problem is much bigger” and it remains to be seen whether officials will succeed in enforcing the law.

“Violence in Israel is becoming greater and greater, both among humans and in hurting animals,” Altman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday afternoon. “Therefore, it’s very important that there will be bills in the Knesset. But it is more important that we take care of these laws.”

According to what she sees in the field every day, animal abuse is still outrageously prevalent, she said.

“It’s simply something horrible that occurs here,” Altman added. “Now the summer vacation is beginning and a lot of students are on vacation. They don’t have anything to do – so [they] come abuse animals.”

A second organization, Anonymous for Animal Rights, also praised the passage of the bill in its reading but also viewed it with caution.

“We congratulate the Knesset members on this important bill,” a statement from the group said. “Today the Agriculture Ministry cares only about the interests of the meat industry and does not enforce the Animal Welfare Law, and as the investigation team of the organization has documented more than once, cruelty to animals is routine.”

Anonymous cited examples such as beating calves with pitchforks and electric shockers, stressing the need for enforcement against such actions. Officials also need to draft more regulations that protect the abused animals themselves, particularly those that are currently injured on industrialized farms, according to the organization.

“Issuing regulations under the Animal Welfare Law – for example, those that would forbid cutting limbs from farm animals without using anesthesia – will be advanced only when enforcement authorities of the law pass from the Agriculture Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry,” the organization said.

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