Stop live animal shipments, Knesset panel recommends

Australian activist: There’s no need to transport livestock halfway around the world just to be slaughtered.

A goat and sheep herd (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
A goat and sheep herd
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Members of Knesset held a special meeting on Monday to urge an end to the practice of shipping live animals from Australia and Europe to Israel for the purpose of local slaughter.
The subject came to the forefront recently when the Agriculture Ministry on January 6 canceled a shipment of live cattle and sheep heading to Israel from Australia. Animal rights groups laid heavy criticism on the practice, after the Australian ship’s engine broke down on the first day of the journey, leaving 13,000 animals stranded aboard the ship for a week while the engine was repaired. It was the fifth time an incident like this has occurred in the past two years.
Chairman of the Knesset’s Animal Welfare subcommittee, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), organized a meeting on the subject on Monday, with the participation of MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Sharon Haskel (Likud), Yael German (Yesh Atid), Dov Henin (Joint List) and Yael Cohen-Paran (Zionist Union).
"The pictures of the live shipments that were shown today to the subcommittee are horrifying. It should not be allowed to continue carrying out suffering like this,” Shmuli said.
“The animals go through an agonizing journey where many of them are injured and die during the trip. This could pose serious health risks from the consumption of tainted meat."
Israel should import meat rather than the live animal, he explained. Shmuli also pointed out that slaughtering the animals in Israel has not brought down the price of meat overall, which therefore “puts the entire practice into question.”
According to statistics provided by Anonymous for Animal Rights, 292,274 live animals were imported into Israel in 2015, with 2,900 of them going to the Palestinian Authority for slaughter.
Joining the legislators at the subcommittee meeting on Monday was renowned Australian animal rights activist Lyn White, the campaign director of Animals Australia, who came to Israel specially to express to Knesset members why the practice should be ended.
In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post following the session, White said that if Israeli government officials knew the facts about the transport of live animals, they would immediately end the practice.
A former police investigator, White has worked in recent years to exposes animal abuse cases in industrial settings, such as slaughterhouses, around the world, spanning from Australia to Indonesia to parts of the Mediterranean as well.
“It’s the year 2016. We can ship and fly fresh meat around the world. There’s no need to ship animals half way around the world just to be slaughtered,” White said, pointing out that it would be much more humane for religious slaughter to take place at the point of origin.
“We understand now that animals endure fear and stress and there can be nothing worse than putting an animal on a ship for three weeks,” she added.
Onboard a ship, cattle and sheep are subject to inclement weather, temperature changes and rough seas, she said. Furthermore, they do not have room to lie down comfortably and often suffer injuries during the journey.
The practice has ecological downsides as well, White said, because all waste matter and animal carcasses en route are thrown overboard into the ocean.
White explained that although Australians are opposed to live animal shipments, the government continues the practice for political and commercial reasons.
“Most Australians want this to end,” she said. “We are ashamed of it. It is all about profit.”
White expressed optimism, however, about the increased awareness in both Israel and Australia regarding animal abuse, and said that Australian politicians have been contacted more on this subject than any other.
“This morning, your subcommittee was so concerned and it was encouraging to see that,” she said, noting that there is still a long way to go.
“Australian industry projects itself as a leader in animal rights,” White added. “Most Australians are ashamed that they can say that of such a cruel trade. It just goes to show how much more these live exports need to end.”