Thousands of Israeli rallied for animal rights at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night.
Protesters held up signs calling for an end to transports of livestock to Israel for slaughter.
“I want to live,” one sign bearing a photo of a cow said. “Their lives are in our hands,” another banner said.
Another sign brandished by a demonstrator decried scientific experimentation on animals.
In 2016, 571,972 live sheep and cattle arrived at Israeli ports from Europe and Australia – nearly double the number for 2015 (292,274), according to Agriculture Ministry figures. More than 30 percent came from Australia – the biggest live animal exporter in the world — on journeys that take up to three weeks, with the remainder arriving from Eastern Europe and Portugal. Ships resembling multi-story parking lots carry 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.
Evidence from Australian vet Lynn Simpson, who served as the official on-board vet for 57 live export journeys, including to Israel, described animals in cramped conditions, passing the journey covered in their own excrement, calves “cooking from the inside” in the boiling temperatures of the Red Sea, and animal corpses being tossed into the ocean. Simpson was fired, reportedly because the Australian livestock industry no longer wanted to work with her.
In February, the High Court of Justice ordered the government to “change gear” and speed up attempts to reduce the suffering of animals shipped to Israel for fattening and slaughter. Giving its interim opinion on a petition submitted by animal rights groups for a complete ban on what the groups call “death shipments” and their replacement with imported chilled meat, justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Hanan Meltzer and Neil Hendler instructed the government to provide an update by April 30 on efforts to implement policies that would reduce the suffering of imported animals.
“There is nobody who doesn’t think transported animals shouldn’t suffer. The gap is between zero imports, as requested by the petition, on the basis that there is no real way to prevent suffering and to supervise and enforce, and between real steps to reduce suffering,” the judgment said.
In May, Israel’s Agriculture Ministry announced it is barring the “shackle and hoist” method of ritual slaughter immediately for new slaughterhouses looking to export meat to the Jewish state. Starting June 1, 2018, the ban also affected abattoirs with existing contracts.
Widely used by slaughterhouses in South America, the controversial method involves electrically prodding, restraining, and then hoisting an animal in the air by one leg after its throat is slit. Workers then sever its spinal cord.