Court orders state to provide updates on Tnuva abuse probe

Animal rights groups demand more transparency, regulations for handling slaughterhouse calves.

Tnuva (photo credit: Courtesy Anonymous for Animal Rights)
(photo credit: Courtesy Anonymous for Animal Rights)
ordered the state on Wednesday to provide updates within one month on the progress of the criminal investigation of alleged abuse at Tnuva’s Adom- Adom slaughterhouse, recognizing the images of cattle prodding and dragging as “shocking” to the eyes.
The High Court hearing on the matter occurred in response to a December petition filed by the groups Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live, which called for the closure of the slaughterhouse until the end of the criminal investigation.
The call to close the facility followed the airing of an undercover expose on Reshet’s Kolbotek television program in early December.
After the program showed images of animals receiving electric shocks, beatings and other forms of abuse, the Agriculture Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Beit She’an police opened a criminal investigation into the site’s practices – an investigation that has yet to conclude.
Represented by attorney Yossi Wolfson, the animal rights organizations filed their petition against the director of Veterinary Services at the Agriculture Ministry – represented by attorney Michal Michlin Friedlander of the State Attorney’s Office – and Tnuva, represented by attorneys Itamar Anaby, Gavriel Disegni and Keren Waidberg from S.
Friedman & Co. Advocates.
Presiding over the hearing on Wednesday were judges Miriam Naor, Yoram Danziger and Noam Solberg.
At the beginning of the discussion, Friedlander assured the court that the State Attorney’s Office is working together with the Agriculture Ministry on the issue of whether to indict certain individuals, but that the quantity of photos and material accumulated have required a lot of time. Within another month at most, the process should be finished, she said, according to the discussion protocol released by the High Court later that day.
“We saw the movie and it’s shocking,” Naor said.
The judge noted, however, that at the end of the film there is a section of photographs and other things that were not quite comprehensible, as well as a disruption in the sound.
“We will request an additional notice in another month from the respondents, because we want to know what is going on with the indictment, and after we receive this [Wolfson] will bring the continuation of his opinion,” Naor said. “There is no doubt that it is hard to watch this film and these are difficult matters, and there is no doubt that he who should be punished will be punished.”
While Wolfson accepted the court’s decision, he stressed that there are still many issues that have been left unsolved, such as the idea of dragging calves that are not capable of standing on their feet.
An additional issue that Wolfson pointed out was that of the security cameras – the fact that cameras have been installed, but that viewing the pictures is available only to Tnuva employees.
To this complaint, Naor responded that Wolfson must turn to the respondents and gain an understanding on the subject from them, because the issue does not appear in the court petition directly.
Although Naor said that the court must wait another month to receive updated investigation information before coming to any decision, she noted: “The eyes see what they see, and it’s hard for them to ignore it.”
In response to Wednesday’s discussion, the Agriculture Ministry expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision and issued a statement detailing what actions its Veterinary Services has taken thus far, from the moment the case was exposed.
Immediately upon learning of the incidents taking place, the director of Veterinary Services ordered that immediate and substantial actions occur, which would include resource reallocation and procedures to prevent similar events from reoccurring, the ministry statement said.
The ministry implemented training courses for veterinarians and their staff members at the slaughterhouse, as well as continued supervision of their work afterward, the office said.
Meanwhile, Tnuva installed security cameras in its slaughterhouses, providing full access of the photographs to veterinarians at both Tnuva and at the ministry’s Veterinary Services, according to the statement.
The Agriculture Ministry explained to the slaughterhouse staff that the office’s veterinary supervisors would be examining their work through randomized video screenings.
To strengthen external supervision of activities at the slaughterhouse, the Agriculture Ministry has also increased the number of Veterinary Services inspectors arriving for facility checks there by six, the office noted.
In addition to launching the improvements already made within the slaughterhouses, the Agriculture Ministry opened the joint criminal investigation of the situation with the police, and the findings of the investigation are now up for decision under the jurisdiction of the Northern District Attorney’s office, the ministry said.
Although a hearing for four veterinarians at the slaughterhouse occurred within the Agriculture Ministry, the office decided not to repeal their licenses yet, but did require an increase in supervision of animal cruelty prevention at the sites, the office said. Following the completion of the police investigation, the ministry will decide whether to file charges on the subject, the statement continued.
While generally content with the judges’ statements on Wednesday, Anonymous for Animal Rights expressed frustration that regulations for handling slaughterhouse animals still do not exist, no charges have been filed against the alleged abuses, the investigation has not concluded and many alleged abusers and veterinarians who failed in their roles remain in their positions at the company.
“We are quite satisfied with the statements of Justice Naor, which were very unambiguous,” a statement from Anonymous said. “She expressed shock from the investigation.”
On the same day as the hearing, Tnuva’s Facebook page was flooded with web users posting demands that the company install accessible webcams in their slaughterhouses.
Meanwhile, Anonymous slammed the Agriculture Ministry for failing to enact suitable procedures for handling the treatment of animals and preventing their abuse in slaughterhouses.
The need for such procedures arose only after the broadcast of the alleged abuse occurred, and months later the ministry still has yet to formulate such procedures, the organization argued.
“It is outrageous that four months after the investigation, nothing has changed,” Wolfson said. “Tnuva and the Agriculture Ministry claim that security cameras were installed in the slaughterhouses. In light of the failure to supervise the slaughter, we demand transparency – we demand that photos be transmitted to an independent website, to allow consumers to know where their food comes from.”