Knesset panel gives initial approval to stiffer punishments for animal abuse

Animal rights activists dissatisfied with the measures, say they fail to provide adequate protection against animal abuse.

Cows. Illustrative (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cows. Illustrative
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee gave preliminary approval on Monday to an amendment mandating stiffer punishments for animal rights abusers, including increased sentences of up to four years behind bars.
The proposal promoted by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, which passed on a first reading, would amend the 1994 Animal Welfare Law – legislation that delineates both acceptable methods for handling animals as well as punishments for those convicted of violating their rights.
The new amendment would lengthen prison time from three to four years for anyone who purposely inflicts suffering on an animal.
“This is an important amendment that paves a new and effective path for dealing with animal welfare offenses,” said Ariel. “The amendment includes the expansion of powers of professional bodies responsible for enforcement of the law and stricter sentencing.”
Ariel was criticized earlier this month for proposing the replacement of a program of spaying and neutering stray cats with a “transfer” of these animals to another country. While he quickly abandoned this idea, a ministry spokesman at the time said that the minister was seeking alternatives to surgical procedures that cause “grief and suffering” to animals.
The amendment approved by the Education Committee on Monday would expand owners’ obligations to care for their animals and prevent abuse.
In addition to lengthening prison sentences for abusers, the amendment extends prohibitions on abandoning animals, in commercial settings such as slaughterhouses, boarding houses and pet stores, the committee said.
The amendment also seeks to expand an existing ban on live tissue cutting for cosmetic purposes, as well as for tattooing and other harmful practices.
Seven MKs voted in favor of the amendment, while three abstained, allowing the legislation to move on for second and third readings to the Knesset plenary.
Animal rights activists, joined by many lawmakers, were dissatisfied with the measures, arguing they failed to provide adequate protection against animal abuse.
“Without officials and administrators being held accountable for the abuse of animals taking place within their area of responsibility, we will continue to search in vain for [those responsible] and be shocked all over again from another investigation of abuse,” said MK Dov Hanin (Hadash).
Representatives of the Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live groups decried the MKs’ rejection of a proposed fiveyear maximum sentence urged by a stricter bill proposed by MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union).
One measure supported by Shmuli involved increasing jail time penalties to five years, unlike the four years agreed upon in the version approved by the committee, the organizations said.
Ariel himself had originally promoted a series of much stricter amendments, which were approved by the Knesset plenary in a first reading this July. Chief among these measures was a clause imposing criminal liability on the directors of any corporation – such as a slaughterhouse – that handles animals.
If a case of abuse would occur within such a place of business, the presumption would have been that the executive violated his or her duty, unless proven that he or she did everything possible to fulfill the relevant obligations.
Animal rights groups, as well as many lawmakers, have stressed that such steps are necessary particularly in light of the repeated cases of abuses that have plagued the country’s slaughterhouses.
One major abuse case was uncovered an at Tnuva’s Adom Adom cattle slaughterhouse in December 2012, followed by a probe into Solgowek in October 2013. This June, the Agriculture Ministry temporarily shut down the Dabbah company slaughterhouse, also due to animal rights violations.
“The government voted today against adequate punishment of abusers,” a statement from the animal rights groups said on Monday.
“By exempting executives from the responsibility of preventing abuse in their factories, the government is asking for the next abuse, which will undoubtedly be uncovered soon.”