The High Court of Justice severely criticized the state on Wednesday for allowing the force-feeding of geese to continue for seven months after the deadline it had set for the end of the practice before it took steps to implement the court's ruling. At the same time, the court rejected a petition by farmers asking for more time to phase out the procedure and for compensation for the loss of their income from the practice. The court set the deadline in 2003, in response to a petition by animal rights groups against government regulations that had permitted force-feeding. At that time, the court ruled that the regulations violated the law regarding humane treatment of animals, and gave the farmers and the state until March 31, 2005 to either find a less painful system to enlarge geese livers or to halt the practice entirely. After the ruling, farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture tried and failed to find new methods that would satisfy the court ruling. It was only in November 2005, seven months after the deadline, that the government gave up and issued directives to phase out the force-feeding practice by April 15, 2006. Justice Ayala Procaccia, who wrote yesterday's decision, said, "The situation in which a court ruling was not implemented for seven months is a troubling one in a state governed by the rule of law, when the state, which is responsible for safeguarding the law, is itself a partner to the failure to observe the law and judicial decisions. The outcome of this situation is problematic from the point of view of the ongoing suffering to the birds... But beyond that, a state of affairs in which the law is disregarded by the state, is, in and of itself, deserving of harsh criticism, in view of the deviation from proper government procedures and from elementary constitutional norms inherent in the basis of the democratic process." Procaccia also ruled that the compensation issue could not be addressed in the context of the petition by the farmers and poultry feeders that had been placed before the court. The ruling also dealt with a petition by several animal rights groups demanding that the government accelerate implementation of the 2003 ruling. Procaccia wrote that this petition had been rendered superfluous because the government had finally begun to phase out the process, but credited the groups for having pressured the government until it finally took the required action.