Mitzna: Agriculture Ministry lax on animal abuse

At meeting on slaughterhouse practices, Knesset committee chairman says he’ll summon Shamir to appear before panel and provide answers.

Chickens at Solgowek slaughterhouse 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Kolbotek.)
Chickens at Solgowek slaughterhouse 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Kolbotek.)
The Agriculture Ministry is negligent in combating animal abuse, Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee chairman Amram Mitzna said Tuesday during a meeting on the issue.
“There is insufficient enthusiasm and will on the part of the Agriculture Ministry to take this subject as seriously as it deserves to be taken,” Mitzna said, announcing he planned to summon Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir to appear before the panel.
Mitzna called Tuesday’s meeting following a Channel 10 report that the Soglowek slaughterhouses, which kill 30,000 chickens and turkeys a day, abuse the animals.
According to the broadcast, chickens are kept for up to 19 hours in cramped, feces-filled cages. Many are left injured inside the cages without food or water, sometimes with their limbs stuck between the bars.
“The consumer eating an egg or schnitzel has a right to know what happened to the animals on the way to being slaughtered,” Ronen Bar, the Channel 10 reporter who investigated Soglowek, told the committee.
Soglowek CEO Pini Kamri told the committee that the footage in the report was “unfortunate, but they are the exception.” He added that the company had addressed the problem.
“We switched the machine even though it meets standards... and moved to a more manual and controlled process,” he said.
Dr. Nadav Gal-On of the Agriculture Ministry’s Veterinary Service quipped that “raising animals for slaughter and to be eaten doesn’t look as great as the cute dog in your living room.”
He added that over 200 million chickens and turkeys were killed each year in Israel. As such, the process had to be industrialized.
“We don’t do less than any other similar ministry in Western countries, but despite the supervision there are problems sometimes, and we take care of them,” Gal-on continued.
“When machines work properly, animals don’t get caught on them, and machines are preferable over manual labor for long hours. It’s hard to manually put chickens into a machine for 10 hours in a row.”
Reut Horn of Anonymous for Animal Rights told the committee that there was insufficient progress on regulations against animal abuse on farms, and that the Agriculture Ministry faced a serious conflict of interest since it was meant to defend both farmers and consumers.
Bayit Yehudi MK Zevulun Kalfa called to increase the fine for animal abuse. He also said that as a farmer he had to spend NIS 1 million to improve conditions for his cows when laws were passed in 2007, but that it was worth it because they produced higher-quality milk.
“Everyone wants to improve the situation and should understand that animal welfare brings a better product,” Kalfa said.
MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) pointed out that animal abuse was against Jewish law.
“It’s more important for us to be moral people than to eat schnitzel,” she said.
Mitzna said the law should be paramount.
“We will not compromise on following the law and won’t allow people to abuse animals for no reason before they reach the end of their lives,” he said.
“We will all join the effort to take care of these problems and promote normative values.”
Following the meeting, the Agriculture Ministry said it was undertaking “extensive and continuous activity ensuring the welfare of animals in all the slaughterhouses throughout the year through supervision and law enforcement to stop animal abuse and by passing laws and regulations that promote reforms to improve animal welfare.”
It added, however, that it “cannot be everywhere all the time.”
“The [Soglowek] slaughterhouse has its own supervision system, including a veterinarian and clear instructions to examine and report all shortcomings,” the ministry said.
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.