Inspectors raid pig farm suspected of abuse

In Western Galilee farm, 2,000 pigs found living in abusive conditions; owners could face up to 3 years in prison.

Abused pigs in galilee raid 370 (photo credit: Rinat Koris-Rahamim)
Abused pigs in galilee raid 370
(photo credit: Rinat Koris-Rahamim)
An interministerial force of inspectors raided one of Israel’s largest pig farms on Monday night, where officials have said 2,000 pigs were living in abusive conditions.
The raid, which occurred at the Araf piggery in the Western Galilee local council of Mi’ilya, occurred under the joint action of the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Tax Authority, Israel Police, the Israel Electric Corporation and the Interior Ministry.
There, the pigs were found living neglected in extremely high density, suffering injury and receiving no medical treatment, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Sludge from swine manure carpeted the farm floor and pig carcasses were strewn within the sludge, causing odors to the surrounding environment.
A court-ordered closure against the farm already exists but has yet to be fulfilled, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.
So harsh were the conditions that during the raid, ministry inspectors said they observed the male pigs that were forced to step on each other due to lack of space and female pigs that were held in such small cells that they were unable to move.
Ministry inspectors took wastewater samples to check pollution levels of the piggery, the ministry said.
At the Araf farm, government officials also examined the company’s business books, which have been under suspicion of criminal activity, the Environment Ministry said. The farm is one of many piggeries around Israel owned by the Araf family, a respected name in the business, but none of whose pig farms are operating under a proper business license, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry. The farm has annual revenues of approximately NIS 70 million.
The owners of the farm are being investigated, and investigation material will be transferred to the claims department of the Agriculture Ministry for further legal proceedings, an Agriculture Ministry statement explained. The abuse of animals is an offense punishable with up to three years imprisonment or a fine up to NIS 202,000.
In general, pig activity in northern Israel brings serious pollution hazards and damage to the wastewater treatment plants of the region, according to the Environment Ministry. Concentrated pig sewage flows into the sewage system, which is unable to cope with such a pollution load. In some cases, the pig farms are even sending their sewage directly into streams and the ground itself. The Environmental Protection Ministry in the past has submitted a number of past indictments against pig farm owners for pollution- related offenses, but after paying court-imposed fines, the farmers continued their activities without repairing the root of the problem, the ministry said.
Other problems that generally exist in Israeli piggeries include severely cruel acts, such as castration and tailchopping without anesthesia, according to the Environment Ministry. In a huge portion of pig farms, owners are holding pigs in such harsh conditions that the pigs themselves are hardly able to move at all from adulthood until slaughter.
The Agriculture Ministry said that it is currently promoting a reform for improving the living conditions of pigs in Israel, to match the standards of the European Directive, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry. In addition to working to improve the welfare of animals, the biministerial team is also striving to better public health by reducing biological and environmental hazards.
The team has already identified in their recommendations that farmers must reduce the density in which pigs are being raised, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
In addition, the team has suggested relocating many pig farmers to more isolated locations in the South, where risks of water contamination and odor nuisances are lower.
The Agriculture Ministry also encouraged members of the public to continue to report any suspected violations of the Animal Welfare Law to the ministry's Veterinary Services department.
The activist organization Anonymous for Animal Rights criticized the Agriculture Ministry for its delayed actions taken regarding the long-time suffering of the pigs.
In May, Anonymous and the organization Let Animals Live petitioned the High Court to order the Agriculture Ministry to explain why no such standards exist for handling pigs, the organization explained.
Typical growth conditions in pigsties in Israel are characterized by abuse, which includes not only acute pain but also social isolation and complete inactivity and immobility, a statement from Anonymous said.
“The surprise of Agriculture Ministry inspectors is astounding, since so often documents of pig abuse pass through their hands,” the statement added.
“Abuse is made possible because the Agriculture Ministry refuses to set a minimum standard for holding pigs, as the office is charged to do under the Animal Welfare Law.”