10/25/2010 03:41

As part of new bill nearly all animals in Israel would be accorded protected species status instead of just some animals.

While fewer and fewer hunting licenses have been renewed each year for the past 10 years and no new licenses are granted at all, the sport could disappear entirely if a bill by the Environmental Protection Ministry passes into law.

On Sunday, the bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, giving it government backing and paving the way for swift passage through the Knesset.

According to the bill, which modifies the Wildlife Preservation Law, instead of some animals in Israel being accorded protected species status, nearly all animals would receive that status.

Only in a few instances would hunting be permissible – to prevent ecological damage or a threat to people.

Additionally, spreading poison on the ground or selling animal furs would be prohibited. The fines and jail time for illegal hunting would also increase under the new bill.

There are about 2,000 hunters with permits in Israel and the types of animals that are permissible to hunt have been narrowing each year. At one point, there were 6,000 licensed hunters but the area could only sustain about 2,000 hunters. Even those 2,000 have been whittled down by the Nature and Parks Authority through nonrenewal of licenses.

These days, with the pace of urban development and the encroachment on open spaces, conservation agencies see little need for hunting.

The new bill would cancel the entire licensing process and in essence do away with hunting for sport altogether.

The original law was passed in the 1950s and doesn’t provide sufficient protection to wild animals, the ministry said. Whereas hunting was considered a normal activity in the 20th century, in the 21st century preservation of species and habitats has taken precedence.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel commended the bill.

“We praise the advancement of the bill, which includes banning sport hunting in Israel,” the SPNI said. “Development pressures already do a lot of damage to nature and therefore there isn’t room anymore for sport hunting.

There is a unique and rich biodiversity in Israel and it is our responsibility to protect it rather than damage it through unnecessary activities.”