Agriculture Ministry suspends air transports of live cattle to Israel

An abnormal number of the calves died during a flight from Hungary last week.

December 26, 2016 17:22
2 minute read.
Cows grazing

Cows grazing . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Due to concerns about animal welfare on a recent air transport of cattle from Hungary, the Agriculture Ministry has temporarily grounded all such live shipments to Israel.

The specific case in question involved a flight last Wednesday morning that left Hungary for Israel with about 1,200 calves on board. During the flight, an abnormal number of the calves died, according to the ministry. As a result, officials decided to stop all air shipments of live animals to Israel until Veterinary Services and the ministry’s plant and animal control unit conclude their investigation into the matter.

In addition to the temporary shipment ban, the ministry said it would be reiterating relevant procedures of conduct to cattle importers.

“The issue of animal welfare is on our minds,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said on Sunday.

“Agriculture Ministry procedures are stringent, and professionals in the ministry are working all the time to safeguard the welfare of animals.”

With hopes of decreasing the shipments of live calves and thereby minimizing the distress of animals, the ministry said it has increased the import volumes of already slaughtered meat products to Israel. The ministry has also authorized about 20 additional plants in Europe to export such meat to Israel and is working to increase the shelf life of chilled products imported from South America.

“I am working to extend the shelf life of chilled meat imported from abroad so that we can reduce the unnecessary suffering of animals and take care of consumers by bringing more high-quality meat to Israel and at cheaper prices,” Ariel said.

Shlomo Grazzi, the ministry’s chief veterinarian, expressed his support for the chilled-meat import option and condemned violations of animal-welfare codes.

“We consider the import of chilled meat an alternative that could lead to a reduction in animal transports and are therefore working to enable this without harming food safety for the public,” Grazzi said. “At the same time, the ministry will continue to oversee the conditions of importing animals, and every case suspicious of causing unnecessary suffering will be investigated and dealt with severely.”

The animal-welfare organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live, which have long been fighting to end live animal imports entirely, praised the decision to suspend the air shipments but called for further action, including bans on sea transports.

Describing the deaths aboard the Hungarian flight as “expected,” the groups stressed that “suffering and death is an integral part of the live transports of calves and lambs sent to Israel by sea and by air.”

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