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The Animal Protection Law






Animal Protection

Animal Experimentation

Other Animal Laws



Supreme Court Verdict: Foie Gras




The Animal Protection Law is the main piece of legislation regulating the treatment of animals in Israel. It applies to all vertebrates under all circumstances, with three important exceptions:

  • The Law does not apply to animal experiments (covered by the Animal Experimentation Law).

  • The Law exempts the killing of animals for human consumption.

  • The Law exempts veterinarians who apply the ordinances of either the Rabies Ordinance of 1934 or the Animal Diseases Ordinance of 1985.

In practical terms, these exceptions mean that municipal veterinarians who poison stray dogs and cats cannot be prosecuted under the Animal Protection Law, so long as their actions were made in an effort to prevent rabies or other zoonoses (animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans). Clause 4 specifically allows poisoning animals with the slow-acting, painful neurotoxic compound strychnine if authorized by the Head of the Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, the government agency responsible for the control of rabies — the same agency that is responsible for enforcing the Animal Protection Law. In addition, abuses taking place in slaughterhouses (most abattoirs in Israel practice ritual slaughter) are not covered under the Law.


Like any other legislation, the Animal Protection Law can be judged only with respect to its implementation. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Law is not species-specific, the Israeli police interpret it to exclude farm animals and most institutionalized uses (for example, animal shows), leaving the vast majority of the animals used in Israel with little or no protection. The sad conclusion is that the Animal Protection Law is enforced almost only when individual citizens behave cruelly to animals, while the larger abusers (the food industry) are mostly untouched.





Court Cases

To date, few cases of institutionalized animal abuse have been brought to court. In 1997, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem banned crocodile-human "fights," based on the Animal Protection Law. But while the decision to ban the fights was welcome, the Supreme Court included in its verdict some guidelines concerning the manner in which the Animal Protection Law should be interpreted. According to the Supreme Court, the need to safeguard animal welfare must be balanced against legitimate human interests. In the case of the crocodile-human fights, the harm to the animals was obvious, while the benefit for humans was negligible. Consequently, the purpose (entertainment) could not justify the suffering of the animals. When human interests are stronger — such as the production of food in commercial farms that rear animals — then the balance may be different. In other words, while the Animal Protection Law by itself does not mention financial interests as a hindrance to animal welfare, the Supreme Court ruling states that when strong economic or "social" (food production) considerations are involved, animal welfare could be undermined to serve what the Court considers to be "legitimate" human interests.


In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled on another animal welfare case with even wider implications. This time the issue was the well-developed geese and duck force-feeding industry (Israel is a major producer of foie gras). After over three years, the Court declared that the force-feeding regulations issued by the Ministry of Agriculture were illegal, since they violate the anti-cruelty provisions in the Animal Protection Law. See Foie Gras Verdict.


And yet, the Court did not completely ban force feeding. The judges allowed the regulations to remain in force until March 2005, and ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and the Veterinary Services to either ban force feeding, or to issue new regulations that would allow force feeding while substantially reducing animal suffering. In October 2005, the Minister of Agriculture withdrew his appeal against the ban. And still force feeding continued. In February, 2006, the Supreme Court ordered the state to enforce the law, and to require goose farmers to stop force feeding within two months. See further details in Geese and Ducks: Foie Gras & Meat.


The force-feeding industry is only the tip of the iceberg. The Supreme Court noted that routine practices on Israeli farms, such as forced molting of laying hens and veal production, are "problematic" and cause animal suffering. But given the strong financial interests behind Israel's large-scale factory farming, it is unlikely that animal abuse on farms will disappear. Indeed, the veal industry, once a small-scale business, began to develop only after the Animal Protection Law was enacted. Every year, Israel has imported tens of thousands of calves from Poland, Australia (often in horrible condition), and other countries, and many of them are reared with extreme deprivation to produce the pale pink meat of veal.


Even when charges are pressed against institutional animal abusers, only token penalties are imposed. In January 2002, Israel's Channel 2 exposed animal abuse at Kibbutz Gat, where de-horning of cows was performed without anesthetics or analgesics, in order to save the cost of drugs. In April 2002, the Kibbutz and the police signed a plea bargain: the Kibbutz admitted to animal abuse, and was fined 4,000 shekels (less than 900 dollars) for routinely torturing cows.



In theory the Animal Protection Law applies to all vertebrates, with few exceptions detailed in the Law. In reality, almost no enforcement exists with respect to abuses in the large-scale Israeli factory farming industry, the single largest abuser of animals in the country. The courts and the police are also hesitant to apply the Law to other types of institutionalized animal abuse. The Law has been applied primarily to individual cases of cruelty to animals, such as dog and cat beating or horse abuse, and even these cases don't always get enough attention from the authorities.


The Animal Protection Law (in Hebrew):


Amendments to the Animal Protection Law, December 2005

Regulations Against Cruelty to Animals (Animal Protection—Non-Agricultural), August 2009

Amendment Banning the Declawing of Cats, 2011


The Animal Protection Law (in English):


Amendments to the Animal Protection Law, December 2005

Regulations Against Cruelty to Animals (Animal Protection—Non-Agricultural), August 2009

Amendment Banning the Declawing of Cats, 2011