WATCH: Thousands flock to mass Tel Aviv rally for animal rights

The protest's organizers say that it is one of the largest of its kind in history.

Thousands of animal rights protesters gather in Tel Aviv for historic rally.  (photo credit: HAREL BEN NON)
Thousands of animal rights protesters gather in Tel Aviv for historic rally.
(photo credit: HAREL BEN NON)
Thousands of demonstrators gathered to march in downtown Tel Aviv Saturday night to protest the inhumane treatment of animals in Israel, in what organizers are deeming one of the largest animal rights protests in history.
Holding placards stating “Compassion, justice, veganism!” and “Stop the shipping!” (referring to the shipment of livestock from overseas), the protesters began in Meir Park shortly after 8 p.m. and concluded at Rabin Square.
Shira Hertzanu, head of media relations at Anonymous for Animal Rights, which helped organize the event with a coalition of other animal rights groups, including Vegan Active, said she was expecting a record turnout.
“Tonight is the biggest animal rights march in history,” she said before the protest began. “We are expecting 30,000 marchers to arrive here to demand justice and compassion for all animals.”
Hertzanu continued: “We’re talking about all kinds of animals – animals in the food industry, animals in the wild, and cats and dogs. All the people who are coming here tonight are caring people who don’t want to see animals being harmed.”
Hertzanu, who in 2015 filed a joint petition demanding enhanced animal rights to the High Court with Let the Animals Live, said the protesters have specific demands of the government regarding legislation to improve conditions for livestock, stray animals, and pets.
“We are demanding the end of live exports of cows and sheep to Israel from Europe and Australia, which are packed together for weeks in terrible conditions and go through this agonizing journey only to be slaughtered in Israel,” she said.
“Another demand is that Israel bans the sale of fur,” Hertzanu continued.
“Israel was almost the first country in the world to ban fur, but that bill was canceled, so there are a few countries that have already progressed, and we want to be among them. There is absolutely no need to skin animals alive just for clothing.”
Hertzanu said a third demand is that penalties for animal cruelty are more severe.
“There are laws to protect animals, but they are not really being enforced,” she lamented.
“It can be animals like cats and dogs, or animals in the food industry. We have a lot of exposure that shows a lot of harm at slaughter houses, but nobody ever gets punished. We have seen that the punishments are not enough; they’re not really deterring people [from animal abuse].”
A final demand by the protesters is that the government expand its budget for spaying and neutering, and to institute a unilateral no-kill policy for healthy animals at all shelters.
“The problem is that the state doesn’t fund this enough to stop the suffering of the stray cats and dogs,” she said.
Omri Paz, CEO of Vegan Friendly Organization, echoed Hertzanu’s sentiments, adding that he hoped the protest would encourage people to cease eating meat and purchasing leather and fur products.
“We hope that just for one day – even if for just a couple hours – all of Israel and all the press will stop and just give the stage and spotlight to show the problems facing animals at factory farms, and any other abuse or exploitation of dogs, cats or other animals,” he said.
“The main message is that it is in our hands and we have the ability to affect change, so it doesn’t have to come from the government,” Paz added. “It can happen by making people more active and aware of the subject, so that’s why we’re out in the streets tonight.”
Noting that the vast majority of people care about animals, Paz said he hopes individuals who have become desensitized to institutionalized cruelty against them will take action.