Animal rights activists protest in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Anonymous for Animal Rights)
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Likud Beytenu) and Public Security Minister
Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu) announced on Sunday that they would remove
their appeal against a bill prohibiting the trade of foie gras, on the condition
that the bill only prohibit the trade – and not the personal import – of the
By prohibiting the trade instead of the import, Israel
can avoid violating international trade agreements, a move that would bring
economic harm to the country, the ministers said.
The original bill,
initiated by MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) in conjunction with two animal rights
groups, received approval in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation last
Sunday and called for the ban on both the import and trade of foie gras – a
delicacy acquired by force-feeding ducks and geese. The government banned the
practice in Israel about a decade ago after the High Court of Justice deemed it
abusive, but the import and sale of the product remain legal.
night, just before the bill was set to undergo its first Knesset reading on
Wednesday morning, Aharonovitch filed an appeal against the bill on behalf of
Shamir, according to Lipman’s spokesman.
Although Shamir supported the
principles behind the bill, he expressed fears that executing such legislation
would violate international trade agreements and could prompt foie
gras-producing countries such as Hungary and France to retaliate with sanctions
against Israel, Shamir’s spokesman said at the time. Such retaliatory
prohibitions could include bans on Israeli agricultural imports into the EU,
with a potential focus on kosher products, as kosher slaughter has lately caught
negative attention among certain European animal rights activists, the spokesman
Changing the phrasing of the bill from prohibiting imports to
prohibiting trade of the product also received the approval of Economy and Trade
Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday, provided that the trade prohibition is
enforced by the Agriculture Ministry, Shamir’s spokesman said.
is designed with the proper and humane purpose of preventing cruelty to
animals,” Shamir and Aharonovitch said in a joint statement.
proposed change will promote the continuation of the legislation while
preventing economic damage to Israeli exports and imposed sanctions following
the violation of international trade agreements. The proposed change will keep
up with legislation in the state of California in the US in which only the trade
In response to Shamir and Aharonovitch’s proposal,
Lipman’s spokesman said that the MK’s office cannot comment on the offer until
they receive more concrete details that are not based on hearsay. It is still
unclear at this point, for example, whether a prohibition on trade would prevent
individuals from selling foie gras that they personally import or if the product
would be restricted to personal use, the spokesman said.
He added that
Lipman and his supporters will therefore continue to pursue their current plan
of pressuring the appeal’s removal unconditionally, until more definitive terms
of Shamir and Aharonovitch’s agreement becomes available.
specifications will be clarified during the legislation process, Shamir’s
spokesman said in response.
Representatives from the European religious
sector expressed concerns that Shamir’s potential appeal retraction could bring
negative consequences to the struggle to maintain kosher slaughter in the
Rabbi Jermiyahu Menachem Kohen – the head of the Paris
rabbinical court, which is the largest of its kind in Europe – sent a letter to
Shamir on Sunday stressing that a ban on foie gras imports could bring European
environmentalists to retaliate. Due to an increasing European concern that
kosher slaughter might not live up to animal rights standards, passing such a
ban due to animal rights concerns could provide “a double-edged sword to our
enemies,” Kohen wrote.
Some food and catering companies are already
boycotting kosher slaughterhouses in Europe, and an Israeli ban on foie gras
import would only give a boost to this public campaign, he added.
visiting some of the foie gras production facilities in Hungary, Kohen said the
procedure is conducted in a much less injurious manner than in previous years
and stressed that European veterinarians have also confirmed the animals’
Anonymous for Animal Rights, the organization that worked with
Lipman on the bill in collaboration with the group Let Animals Live, criticized
the Agriculture Ministry for failing to fully retract the appeal and for not
submitting a compromise proposal. The animal rights activists organized a
protest against the bill’s blockage on Friday in Tel Aviv and also enlisted more
than 1,300 people to send letters to the ministers involved.
organization slammed Shamir directly for “preventing the advancement” of the
bill and for “misleading the public by stating that he supports the legislation
while in practice trying to hinder it.”
“The message of the agriculture
minister reflects the public pressure exerted upon him and Minister
Aharonovitch,” a statement from Anonymous said. “We propose that the minister
act with integrity and stop the abuse of geese.”