Following a Tuesday night television report showing chickens with their heads wedged between rusting bars and others yanked haphazardly by their limbs, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz launched an investigation of one of the nation’s largest poultry slaughterhouses.Channel 10’s Kolbotek investigator and Anonymous for Animal Rights activist Ronen Bar documented and reported about the alleged abuse taking place at a Soglowek slaughterhouse, responsible for the daily slaughter of about 30,000 chickens and turkeys.The chickens are kept for up to 19 hours in cramped and filthy, feces-filled cages, some broken and rusty, the broadcast reported. Many chickens are left injured inside the cages, without food or water, sometimes with their limbs stuck between the bars, the report said.
The cages are fork-lifted and transported to a machine that hurls the chickens down to a conveyor belt that leads them to the slaughter area, according to the television footage. In the process, however, some of the chickens are left hanging in the air, with their legs and wings caught between bars – until an employee discovers them and throws them onto the conveyor belt, the report said.Immediately following the broadcast, Peretz ordered law enforcement personnel in his ministry to conduct an immediate investigation of the findings, for which testimonies will already begin on Thursday, according to the ministry.“We cannot remain indifferent to these awful pictures,” Peretz said. “There is a legal and moral failure here, and these phenomena ultimately only will financially harm any offenders who do not meet the required instructions.”Peretz also stressed that he has begun intensive discussion with Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and officials at the Justice Ministry in order to complete the procedures necessary to transfer the authority over animal rights to the Environmental Protection Ministry from the Agriculture Ministry. Also just after the broadcast, the organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live approached the head of veterinary services at the Agriculture Ministry, demanding an urgent suspension of permits for transportation to the slaughterhouse and to close its doors.The organizations have filed a complaint to the police against Soglowek for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Law.“Chickens are falling from their cages onto the conveyor belt, sometimes from a great height – one under the other, one on top of the other, a terrifying mass of flapping wings and flying feathers,” the complaint said.Chief Rabbi David Lau said in response to the investigation that the prohibition in Jewish law against causing pain to animals is “extremely serious” and that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate would deliberate on the matter at its next meeting on Monday.“It is unbelievable that we should see such terrible scenes in the food industry in Israel,” said Lau in a statement to the press. “Anyone who witnesses abuse of animals is obligated according to Jewish law to warn those committing the abuse and report it to the authorities.“The Torah commands us to show compassion to all creatures, reduce their suffering as much as possible, including those that will be slaughtered,” he continued.The statement noted that the Chief Rabbinate is empowered to deal only with issues pertaining to Jewish dietary laws in relation to kashrut authorization. The chief rabbi pointed out, however, that the evidence revealed on Wednesday showed that the level of abuse could injure the chickens in a way that would negatively impact their kashrut status.MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), who has worked to ban the controversial food product foie gras from being sold in Israel, praised Lau’s reaction to the revelations.“I praise the chief rabbi for taking such a strong stance even outside the realm of kashrut and Halacha,” Lipman said. “The chief rabbis should be the spokesmen and set the tone for morals and core Jewish values.”Lipman had sent a letter to Soglowek CEO Pini Kamari after the braodcast, emphasizing that he would no longer be purchasing Soglowek products, as he “cannot take part in violating the laws of the state and the values of the Torah.”“I’m not naïve, an abattoir is not a pleasant place, but the absurdity here is that the slaughter was actually the best part – here the poor bird is finally redeemed from his misery,” he said.In response to the report, the Agriculture Ministry stressed that it conducts extensive examinations of the activities going on at slaughterhouses throughout the year, and that all slaughterhouse doctors and inspectors are guided and supervised by the ministry.Since the latest animal welfare regulations came into force, the Agriculture Ministry has filed six indictments related to the welfare and transportation of poultry, the statement continued.Agriculture Ministry officials said they have requested the full, unedited footage in order to examine it.Over the past year, ministry inspectors have conducted a number of careful and computerized examinations at Soglowek, the office said. During the last review, which occurred only a few days ago, there were no signs of physical injury to birds or violations of the Animal Welfare Law.The examination did uncover, however, that a number of birds could not be easily released from their cages and therefore were collected manually by the workers. In addition, the review showed that some cages were broken and unfit for use, so the Agriculture Ministry ordered Soglowek to make these necessary repairs and improve the welfare of the birds during their waiting and unloading process, the statement said.An additional problematic finding in the review was the fact that the birds were tilted downward during the unloading of their cages, and that the large amount of noise during the process may be a cause of great stress to the birds, the ministry said.Soglowek informed the ministry afterward that the company would immediately cease employing the machine responsible for these issues, and also promised to shorten the duration of transport and waiting time prior to slaughter, the ministry added.Soglowek, meanwhile, posted a response on its Facebook page from Kamari, apologizing for the footage displayed and assuring customers that this does not “reflect the spirit of Soglowek.”“We see this as a very serious case, and therefore right when we became aware of the case we immediately replaced the facility in the slaughterhouse,” Kamari said. “Although the facility adhered to regulations and standards in Israel and in the world, we decided to immediately stop the work and replace it in a process that has the most stringent standards.We will take every possible measure in order to ensure that such a case will not arise again.”“We emphasize that the event is not related to the quality of products,” Kamari continued.“The products are as good quality and as safe as ever.”