Last year saw a record 856,630 calves and lambs imported to Israel for fattening and slaughter, according to Agriculture Ministry figures.
This represents a 42 percent increase, compared with 2020 when 601,741 animals were brought to the country in massive ships.
Just over 96,800 of the animals were transferred to the Palestinian Authority in 2021, compared with 45,440 in 2020.
Seven bills to stop such live shipments within three years have been put forward by lawmakers from various parties since the current coalition started work in June. All but one — Micky Zohar (Likud) — are coalition members.
In November 2018, a month before the Knesset dissolved, kickstarting a series of four inconclusive elections, lawmakers greenlighted a bill proposed by Zohar in its preliminary reading to gradually reduce livestock numbers being imported into Israel and to stop them completely within three years, moving entirely to the import of chilled meat.
Yesh Atid’s Yasmin Sacks-Friedman, who last month launched a Knesset caucus for animal welfare, said she was not surprised by the latest figures.
“The wretched animals that come by sea fill the pockets of the importers who get rich at the expense of the suffering caused to the animals, and the public who pay more for the meat,” she said.
“We need to stop this terrible practice. It is not economic or healthy and it is certainly not moral.”
A spokeswoman for Animals Now said that as long as live shipment businesses were allowed, they would “continue to cram more and more animals into cramped and contaminated ships, wallowing in urine and excrement, injured and desperate.”
Numerous reports have exposed animal cruelty aboard the ships, which resemble massive multistory parking lots carrying from 1,000 to 20,000 cattle, or 100,000 sheep, or a combination.
Once in Israel, the animals are loaded onto trucks for journeys that can take hours to slaughterhouses or to pre-slaughter fattening facilities. They are treated with antibiotics against the infections that overcrowding breeds.
In May 2020, the state comptroller panned the Agriculture Ministry for failing to investigate problems relating to live shipments and for failing to punish shipowners or importers who repeatedly broke the rules. Furthermore, the comptroller report said not enough was being done to monitor, deal with and develop new plans to limit the spread of diseases that can jump from livestock to humans.
Per capita, Israelis are the fourth biggest consumers of beef in the world. In top place is Argentina, followed by the US and Brazil.