PM establishes team to determine ministry for animal rights authority

Environment Ministry accuses Agriculture Ministry of conflicting interests in implementing Animal Welfare Law.

Animal Rights Protest 370 (photo credit: DANIELLE ZIRI)
Animal Rights Protest 370
(photo credit: DANIELLE ZIRI)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has established a team to examine the disputed issue of which government ministry should be overseeing the country’s Animal Welfare Law, his office announced on Monday.
For quite some time the placement of animal rights jurisdiction has been a hotbutton issue, with animal rights activists and the Environmental Protection Ministry continuously arguing that authority over animal welfare should not reside in an office that also governs farming interests.
Agriculture Ministry representatives, on the other hand, where the authority has been for the past 19 years, maintain that their office is the natural and fitting locale for animal rights supervision, and that they have successfully executed a number of animal rights regulations in recent years.
Netanyahu’s team, which will be led by Prime Minister’s Office director-general Harel Locker, will “examine the subject while referencing the accepted situation in the world on the issue and while examining a variety of considerations touch the subject,” Netanyahu wrote in a November 18 letter sent to the finance, environmental protection, agriculture and economy ministers. In the letter, Netanyahu informed the ministers that the team will be submitting recommendations to him within 90 days.
“I welcome the prime minister’s decision to set up a team to examine the issue of the Animal Welfare Law,” Peretz said. “The natural place for the protection of animals without economic interests, and in order to avoid abuse and unnecessary suffering to animals, is in the Environmental Protection Ministry.”
The Organization Anonymous for Animal Rights supported Peretz’s position, arguing that although the Agriculture Ministry has been in charge of enforcing the Animal Welfare Law, it “in practice thwarts any attempt to protect them.” The organization noted as one example the recent Agriculture Ministry ban on the sale of forcefattened goose liver in Israel, but its allowance of personal import of the product.
“The Agriculture Ministry finds itself in a conflict – it represents the interests of the agriculture industry, and also must protect the animals that this industry exploits,” a statement from Anonymous for Animal Rights said. “We welcome the establishment of the team, and we hope that it will transfer the authorities of enforcement to the hands of the Environmental Protection Ministry.”
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir likewise welcomed the establishment of a team to determine the rightful place of authority over animal welfare. Shamir expressed hope that the team will complete its work as quickly as possible while maintaining professional discussions that lead to “a clear decision on the issue with public interest at the forefront.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in July, Shamir stressed that animal welfare must remain under the authority of his ministry, as “everything that is related to agriculture and production should be under one umbrella.”
For example, he explained at the time, if a pack of wild animals were spreading a disease to other animals or humans, the Agriculture Ministry would need the jurisdiction to eliminate these harmful individuals without the interference of a conflicting ministry.
“It should be our responsibility – you cannot separate the responsibility with the authority,” he said then. “We cannot create agriculture and then have somebody limit us because of other issues not related to our national goals.”