06/11/2012 05:01
Bill by MK Alex Miller transfers authority from Agriculture Ministry to Environmental Protection Ministry.

The cabinet approved a bill by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) that transfers the authority over animal welfare from the Agriculture Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry during its weekly meeting on Sunday.

“Animals are helpless and today they do not have adequate protection,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who was a strong proponent of the bill. “The ministry must take authority without any demands for budget or manpower.

We are willing to execute the important task of preserving animal welfare and activating enforcement against those who abuse them.”

The bill was originally submitted to the Knesset on March 13 in a joint effort between Miller and the organization Let Animals Live, aiming to provide a mechanism of checks and balances for animal issues and to avoid conflicts of interest, according to the group. The bill would offer real protection for the country’s animals, in order to correct years of injustice to them.

“This is one of the most important amendments to the Animal Welfare Law since it was enacted, if not the most important of them,” a statement from Let Animals Live said, charging that the Agriculture Ministry had caused “tremendous injury” to animals.

“We are convinced that this is an important and meaningful step in the advancement of animal rights in Israel, and the cessation of institutionalized damages on them. We will continue to advance the bill until it passes in the Knesset.”

Anonymous for Animal Rights called the decision the “beginning of a revolution in the protection of animals in Israel.”

Miller’s bill – supported also by MKs Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), Dov Henin (Hadash), Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud), Eitan Cabel (Labor), David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), Ghaleb Majadle (Labor), Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beytenu) and Hamed Amer (Yisrael Beytenu) – arrived at the cabinet only a week after Anonymous released a report marking 18 years of the Animal Welfare Law but insufficient enforcement of violations against their rights. Anonymous had charged that despite repeated promises to the High Court of Justice and the Knesset, the Agriculture Ministry had not set up most of the regulations it had ensured.

“This bill has the power to bring a real revolution to the protection of hundreds of millions of animals that are born each year in agricultural farms, in municipal kennels and in petting zoos,” said Ronen Bar, from Anonymous for Animal Rights.

“At last efficient enforcement will be enabled.”

Up until now, enforcement of animal welfare was currently split between the Agriculture Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry, according to Anonymous. While Erdan’s ministry manages the Fund for the Protection of Animals – which includes fining for violations and issuing a green police in the parks – the bulk of the authority still remained under the Agriculture Ministry, which was responsible for determining regulations as to how to implement the law, the organization said.

“The approval of the bill in the cabinet is an important step in the protection and preservation of animal safety,” Miller said.

“As a matter of fact, by authorizing the preliminary reading of the bill, the State of Israel keeps up with countries of the world in which there is a complete separation between the bodies that care for the preservation of animals and the bodies that care for agriculture. This is truly news for the good friends of human beings.”

Henin also welcomed the passage of the bill in the cabinet.

“Protection of animals is part of the protection of the environment,” he said. “The reason that the field was found thus far in the Agriculture Ministry was historical and anachronistic. In specific cases there is liable to be a conflict of interests that the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for both cultivating and protecting animals.”

During the cabinet discussion, Erdan stressed that in the DNA of the Agriculture Ministry there is a conflict of interest between the intentions of the office and the preservation of animal welfare, according to his office.

At the meeting, 10 ministers voted in favor, and three voted against the bill – Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Meshulam Nahari.

At the end of the cabinet meeting, Noked submitted an appeal to the decision.

“The law presently articulates the need to appropriately and responsibly balance between different interests and values like protection of public health, prevention of the spread of animal diseases and agricultural needs,” her office said. “The ministry has professional knowledge and power of enforcement to take care of this issue.”

Animals aren’t being protected by Agriculture Ministry, government says – Haaretz

Proposed bill would transfer animal protection to Environment Ministry.
By Ilan Lior | Jun.11, 2012

The Agriculture Ministry should no longer be responsible for protecting animals, the coalition decided Sunday, a week after a report by an animal rights group accused the ministry of giving preference to the interests of farmers over the welfare of animals.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided in a 10-3 vote that the coalition will support a bill putting the Environmental Protection Ministry in charge of implementing the Animal Cruelty Law. Agriculture Minister Orit Noked appealed the decision.

“There has been a lot of criticism of deficiencies in dealing with matters connected to animal rights in Israel,” states the explanatory portion of the bill, sponsored by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu ). “Animals, which are by their nature perhaps the weakest group in Israel, are exposed to much harm and to the absence of sufficient protection on the part of the state.”

Part of the problem, according to the bill, is the “inherent conflict of interest between the various tasks” of the Agriculture Ministry.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said his ministry pledges to take on the added responsibility without seeking additional funding.

“A society is judged by its treatment of the weak,” he said. “Animals are helpless, and today they are not protected sufficiently. My ministry commits to taking on the responsibilities without making any demands for a budget or personnel. We are willing to carry out the important task of maintaining animal welfare and enforcing [the law] against abusing them.”

Noked appealed the committee vote, saying farmers, and not just animals, must be protected.

“The law as it stands today expresses the need for a suitable and responsible balance between various interests and values, like protecting public health, preventing the spread of animal diseases and agricultural needs,” she said. “The ministry has the professional knowledge and enforcement authority to deal with the matter.”

Noked and her predecessor as agriculture minister, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, voted against coalition support for the bill, as did Meshulam Nahari, a minister without portfolio.

The Agriculture Ministry has been tasked with implementing the Animal Cruelty Law since it was passed 18 years ago, but animal rights activists say it has neglected its duty and failed to set guidelines to protect many of the animals in the country.

The bill states that the Environmental Protection Ministry is better suited to the task, particularly since it is already responsible for some aspects of animal protection.

“Unifying the responsibilities under a single government ministry will contribute to increased protection of animals in Israel, prevent the doubling up of enforcement and monitoring authorities, and make the systems meant to promote [animal] well-being and rights more efficient,” the bill states.

Local animal rights group Anonymous for Animal Rights, which released a report last week attacking the Agriculture Ministry for “systematically evading its responsibilities” to protect animals from abuse, cruelty and torture, welcomed the move.

“We welcome the fact that the government has not remained indifferent to the terrible injustice done in making the Agriculture Ministry responsible for the Animal Cruelty Law and to the tremendous harm the ministry caused to animals,” the group said in a statement. “We are convinced that this is an important and significant step to advance the rights of animals in Israel and stop the institutional harm being done to them.”

The group said in its report that the Agriculture Ministry had taken steps to protect animals only in response to “heavy pressure,” which it said was primarily due to the ministry’s “inherent tendency” to prioritize the interests of the agriculture industry.