Animal rights activists marching in Tel Aviv, Sept 19, 2014.
(photo credit: REVITAL TOPIOL)
Making Israel the first country to enact a nationwide ban on urban horse-and donkey- drawn carts, the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee passed a regulation on the subject on Sunday.
The regulation was promoted by the animal rights organization Hakol Chai (“Everything Lives”), the Israeli sister organization of the US-based Concern for Helping Animals in Israel. Hakol Chai members worked with representatives of the Transportation Ministry and the Israel Police to draft the regulation, which bans the use of the vehicles on city streets and roads, except for tourism purposes.
The Economic Affairs Committee, headed by MK Avishay Braverman (Labor), had initially discussed the ban on horse-drawn carts at the end of July, but elected to continue the discussion on Sunday due to concerns about harming tourism, particularly in the city of Nahariya, a committee spokesman said.
Hakol Chai launched its campaign to end the phenomenon of horse- and donkey-drawn vehicle use in Israeli urban environments more than a decade ago, describing the abuse that the animals endure to carry heavy loads. Often starved and beaten while denied veterinary care, the animals are used to haul furniture, scrap metal, construction material, heavy produce and clothing, among other materials, the organization said.
The newly approved regulation materialized from a Hakol Chai appeal to the Transportation Ministry and mayors throughout the country, as well as the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council.
Upon learning about the issue from Hakol Chai, Transportation Minister Israel Katz first announced his intention to sign on a regulation prohibiting the phenomenon in February 2013. A committee within the ministry was charged with formulating the regulation, which would apply to all urban roads aside from those in kibbutzim and moshavim.
Horse- and donkey-drawn carriages have been particularly problematic in the streets of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Nahariya and other cities – causing unnecessary traffic jams in addition to harming the animals, the ministry said at the time.
During Sunday’s discussion, Transportation Ministry officials made clear that carriages would only be able to operate in cities for tourism purposes, with approval from the relevant local authority in writing, as well as consultation with the police.
Nonetheless, an attorney for the animal rights organization Let Animals Live expressed fears that the operation of horse-drawn carriages for tourism will create a loophole in which illegal horse-drawn cart operators also find a way to continue to their activities. The attorney, Yossi Wolfson, said that tourist drivers could instead use rickshaws or open vehicles to achieve their goals.
The regulation, signed by Katz, will come into force six months after its official publication, the Transportation Ministry said.
This achievement for animal rights activists comes a day after an enormous animal rights march in Tel Aviv.
At the Saturday night event, about 4,000 people from animal rights groups marched behind the banner “stop the suffering – choose compassion.”
Ronen Bar, an Anonymous for Animal Rights activist and an organizer of the event, stressed that despite the fact that the public has awakened to animal rights issues, change must occur among the country’s decision-makers.
“The average person does not know that 100,000 healthy dogs are put down each year in Israel, and has not even seen the death of one dog,” Bar said. “Tomorrow a million chickens will be slaughtered, but the average person does not know how they are slaughtered, and of course has never smelled it.”
“There is an entire economic system that backs up crimes committed against animals, based on repression and censorship,” he added.