(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Following a Channel 10 undercover investigation of a Soglowek poultry slaughterhouse, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel immediately decided to shut down operations at the facility Monday night due to animal rights violations.
Ariel made the decision after viewing images revealing abusive activities at the Shlomi slaughterhouse in northern Israel, on a Channel 10 segment that was the continuation of an investigation that began in October 2013, in which Channel 10’s Kolbotek program originally uncovered abusive conditions taking place at the food company. In both cases, undercover cameras were planted by Ronen Bar, an activist from Anonymous for Animal Rights.
The videos aired on Channel 10 on Monday show cages stuffed to capacity while employees dance in circles with chickens and throw them around to each other as if they were balls. The facility contains about 30,000 chickens and 800 turkeys, according to Anonymous for Animal Rights.
“The images that were exposed are most disturbing and unthinkable,” Ariel said. “I have already announced that I will have zero tolerance for such events.”
The Agriculture Ministry’s own investigations regarding the abuse began on Sunday, at which time Veterinary Services demanded that the facility immediately reinforce its own personnel to oversee the slaughter process alongside ministry inspectors.
However, over the course of the day, it became clear that in order to properly supervise unloading and slaughter mechanisms, more suitable infrastructure would be necessary at the site, a spokesman for Ariel said. Until such a steps occur to enable added supervision, operations have been shut down, he said.
“I instructed the director-general and ministry professionals to act as strongly as possible against these offenses and simultaneously accelerate the installation of surveillance cameras in all the slaughterhouses,” Ariel said.
“We are currently promoting an amendment to the Animal Welfare Law that will make punishments more severe, and I intend in the near future to carry out independent spot checks in slaughterhouses to ensure that the law is not violated in any way.”
Other such incidents have been reported at slaughterhouses in the past, such as an abuse case at Tnuva’s Adom Adom cattle slaughterhouse in December 2012. In June, the Agriculture Ministry shut down the Dabbah company slaughterhouse, also due to animal rights violations.
Anonymous for Animal Rights, along with the organization Let Animals Live, filed a complaint on Monday to the Agriculture Ministry regarding the latest Soglowek incident, demanding a criminal investigation of the slaughterhouse; suspension of veterinarians there; and closure of the site until the end of legal proceedings.
“The repeat investigations of Soglowek, Dabbah and Adom Adom do not leave room for doubt: there is no humane slaughter,” a statement from the organizations said. “The abuse occurs routinely, not in specific cases. We call on consumers to view the non-censored photos of Dabbah and Soglowek and decide for themselves if they want to continue to eat meat or choose a healthy vegetarian diet, which in Israel today is more available and affordable than ever.”
The Poultry Growers Association likewise condemned the conduct of Soglowek employees on Tuesday, calling on Ariel to take all steps necessary through Veterinary Services and reopen the facility only when proper handling of the birds can be ensured.
In response to the Channel 10 investigation, Soglowek said on its Facebook page that the company, for the past two years, has invested hundreds of thousands of shekels in 24-hour cameras and in training management to prevent “exceptional and non-standard acts in slaughter.” The firm also emphasized that its kashrut supervisors oversee slaughter personally, stressing the importance of strict training in this area.
“At Soglowek we are working around the clock so that such unfortunate incidents will not occur and we are sorry that despite everything these mishaps occur,” the statement said. “In terms of management, such behavior does not reflect the spirit of the company.
Soglowek management is doing everything so that such things will not happen.”
The company said it employs an animal-welfare inspector as a full-time supervisor and also has trained 10 workers to serve as animal rights trustees in the field.
“Unfortunately, there are exceptions,” the firm continued.
“Soglowek is doing and will continue to do whatever it takes to raise its standards, but it is possible that there may be specific cases and exceptions among workers who act contrary to the strict and clear guidelines and rules. Any worker caught committing an offense is banned immediately and permanently, without compromise.”