Bill to prohibit foie gras sales blocked

Animal rights group says agriculture minister is just pleasing ‘some force-feeding Hungarians.’

June 13, 2013 02:05
3 minute read.
Animal rights protester, Tel Aviv, April 14, 2013.

animal rights370. (photo credit: Courtesy, Barak Bloch )


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Just before a bill to ban the import and sale of foie gras was set to undergo a Knesset first reading on Wednesday morning, ministers filed an appeal to bring the legislation back to the cabinet late Tuesday night, a spokesman for MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening.

The bill, initiated by Lipman in cooperation with two animal rights groups, received approval on Sunday in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and was slated to prohibit the trade of foie gras – liver originating from ducks or geese that have undergone a forced-fattening process.

The Israeli government banned the practice of force-feeding waterfowl about a decade ago after the High Court of Justice deemed the activity to constitute abuse.

But the import and sale of the product is still legal in the country.

Along with Lipman, 20 Knesset members from a wide range of political parties gave their support to the bill.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) officially filed the Tuesday night appeal, an act that occurred as a favor for Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu), according to Lipman’s spokesman. In the Sunday Ministerial Committee meeting all but three of the 13 ministers – Aharonvitch, Shamir and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu) – voted in favor of the bill.

Lipman and his fellow supporters now fear that the legislation will end up buried, the spokesman explained.

“I am not pulling back the law,” Lipman said. “I believe in the law. I believe it is the right thing for the State of Israel to do, and a majority of ministers in the government agree. I came to the Knesset to make positive changes in Israel. Taking a stand against the mistreatment of animals, beings that cannot protect or defend themselves, is a core human and Jewish value which I will always fight for – first and foremost for the animals themselves but also to help make us better people, better Jews and a true light onto the nations.”

In response to Lipman’s concerns, a spokesman for Shamir stressed that “the [agriculture minister] values the issues that deal with the welfare of animals.”

However, the consequences of the bill in its current form could be severe, as European Union exporters of foie gras, like Hungary, could potentially react by blocking Israeli agricultural imports, the spokesman said.

Also under retaliatory threat could be the import of Israeli kosher meat, as several EU nations have already expressed concerns over the kosher slaughter processes, the spokesman explained.

“If Israel forbids the import of anything that has to do with that issue, they might block the import of all the kosher meat from Israel,” he said.

Although the spokesman stressed that Shamir agrees in principal with the goal of the law, he said that the minister would like a discussion to occur first with professionals from all of the relevant authorities – such as the Economy Ministry – before coming to a final version.

Agriculture Ministry deputy director-general of foreign trade Itzhak Ben-David, meanwhile, said that he does not think it is suitable at all to adopt such a law. Ben- David, who was personally involved with promoting the foie gras production ban in Israel a decade ago, said he felt that prohibiting its import “will lead to some economic sanctions” – particularly from Hungary or France.

Such a policy has no precedent thus far and has only been passed in the state of California, he said. Implications on bilateral free trade agreements with the EU could be disastrous, Ben-David added.

Anonymous for Animal Rights, one of the organizations that worked with Lipman, said that its members flooded Shamir’s Facebook page on Wednesday with comments against the appeal.

“Israel decided that the force-feeding of geese and ducks is illegal abuse,” a statement from Anonymous said. “If it is not legal to produce foie gras here, it is absurd to allow the trade of it. It is unfortunate that the agriculture minister, in charge of animal welfare, removed himself from protecting against barbaric abuse that should be done away with, just to please some force-feeding Hungarians.”

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