Posts on farmed mammals

מקבץ פוסטים שפורסמו במקור ב-Animal Rights in Israel (דף פייסבוק, כיום For Anonymous Animals, בבעלות עמותת אנונימוס).


Authorities and industry leaders to Israeli dairy farmers: treat your cows well, activists are watching you!

A late-August letter from the secretary of the Israeli Cattle Breeder's Association (ICBA) to ICBA members focuses on recent investigations by the Ministry of Agriculture officials into dairy farms. Cow welfare problems are central to the letter: "The public of breeders is called upon to enhance consciousness and sensitivity to this important domain, in order to prevent unnecessary suffering to cattle and negative image to those who work in this sector."

The letter stresses that dehorning with paste (which contains caustic soda, a tissue-burning chemical) is allowed only when calves are no older than 10 days; afterwords, dehorning by any means is allowed only with the administration of analgesia, by a veterinarian. (It is therefore evident that using the burning chemical on younger calves requires no painkillers).

Another specific instruction refers to downed cows: it is forbidden to load them on trucks unless the District Veterinarian issued a special permission.

The ICBA letter was sent after a July 10 letter by the Director of The Israeli State Veterinary Services and Animal Health (VSAH) warned owners and managers of dairy farms: "There is a growing interest by animal protection activists in activities on animal farms in general and on dairy cattle farms all over the country in particular. The Veterinary Services receive many calls and complaints in writing, with photographs 'from the field', about inappropriate breeding conditions and breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. Many times, what a cattle breeder perceives as natural and normative does not seem so to those who are not used to ordinary farm sights or those with a different worldview. Please follow regulations and procedures, for your sake and the animals' sake."

The VSAH also stresses that using electric shocks in order to get cattle to move is forbidden since 2006, and it is "harmful and unnecessary". The letter specifies two such practices:
* The use of electric prod on the animal's head and other sensitive parts is forbidden at all times; and electric prodding is forbidden in general, except for "unusual and rare cases" and after attempting other, less harmful methods.
* The use of electric gates on dairy farms is totally forbidden. Such gates ("electric dogs") are used as a means to urge cow movement towards the milking parlor. The gate produces electric shocks, and it is currently offered for sale by at least one Israeli company (Afimik).

The VSAH letter is a response to complaints by Anonymous for animal Rights. Surely, no new alertness of dairy workers will prevent all cow abuse, since much abuse is inherent to the industry. Nevertheless, the presence of critical eyes (and cameras) can reduce some cruelties.


Horse meat served in an Israeli restaurant

In the last few days, the Israeli media is obsessed with a new horse meat scandal. The story has been exposed after a couple ordered a "special" dish in a hotel restaurant in Tel-Aviv. Inquiring about components that "looked and smelled very odd" the costumers were told, quite reluctantly, that it was horse meat, imported from Hungary.

Much like the horse meat scandal in Britain on January, the new scandal is mainly about not informing the costumers. They were perfectly OK with eating a chicken and dead marine animals, yet eating a horse shocked them, as it would shock the great majority of Israeli meat-eaters.

Yet, in fact, that restaurant sells horse meat regularly, and trade in horse meat in this country is probably not as rare as it would seem. Hungary, which also exports foie gras to Israel, marks itself as a source of extra-cruel meats; yet horses are slaughtered in Israel as well. As slaughter and trade are done illegally, it is virtually impossible to follow the scale of this practice. A big exposure of horse slaughter inside Israeli territory is remembered from March 2001, after a channel 2 "Uvda" team documented a man who bought horses and donkeys, killed them inside some yard at Jaffa, and sold their meat as cattle meat.

The "Uvda" exposure mentioned much cruelty in the process. In fact, the "legitimate" slaughter of "ordinary" species is just as cruel, but apparently eating a particular species must be taboo before many meat-eaters contemplate cruelty.

More on this story:

Psst! That's horse you're eating, Tel Aviv waiter admits, HaAretz

It behooves a restaurant to accurately declare its meat, Israel HaYom


(link to picture)

Dairy farmers' self-depiction

This picture was uploaded to Facebook by a couple of Israeli dairy farmers, whose profile picture shows them caressing a cat inside their dairy farm. The picture you see here is attached to an open letter directed to the Agriculture Minister and the Finance Minister, asking for state funds to help purchasing new equipment that should save milking time.

In their letter, the couple explain that they operate their 65-cow farm without employing foreign workers, and declare that "we are proud to be dairy farmers and we love to take care of our cows and milk them."

The calf in the picture looks dead at first glance, yet he is alive, as the picture caption explains: "carrying a newborn calf to initial treatment." Presumably, hanging the calf by the legs was a convenient way to take the newborn away from his mother – the routine treatment of dairy industry calves.

The picture and the letter won almost a thousand Shares on Facebook by now. Recent commentators condemn the couple for cruelty, but many others complement them in terms such as "true Zionists" and "salt of the earth." Just like the farmers who smile so charmingly at the camera while holding a baby animal upside down after depriving him of maternal care, the complimenters see nothing wrong with the depicted scene. Maybe the entire dairy farm routine seems to them necessary and unquestionable, perhaps even a job for "animal lovers" who provide "care" – certainly better treatment than hired hands would provide.

What do you think about this picture?


Animal cruelty charges filed against Tnuva slaughterhouse workers

In September 2012, an Anonymous for Animal Rights activist applied for a job in Israel's largest mammal slaughterhouse, owned by the country's largest food company, Tnuva. During his 19 days of work there, the activist secretly documented systematic, illegal abuse of cattle and sheep, much of it supported by the slaughterhouse's management. Some of the footage was exposed in December 6 by Israel's leading investigation TV show, Kolbotek. An unprecedented public outcry following the show forced Tnuva to make several promises and take superficial corrective measures, while the authorities took their time "investigating" the issue.

Yesterday, about a year after the undercover investigation, the Agriculture Ministry (who is responsible for the Animal Welfare Act) and the North District Attorney Office filed charges against four Tnuva employees. The prosecutors write about the manager of the slaughter line and his deputy:

"Workers at the lairage used a shocker, with knowledge and approval of the accused, with no appropriate cause and in a way that caused suffering to the calves, and electrified the calves when moving them from place to place using the shocker, by placing it on various parts of the calf's body, including sensitive parts such as the testicles, rump, belly, chest, neck, head and face. Sometimes the workers used the shocker on calves that lay down or collapsed due to stumbling, slipping or anxiety, including cases when the calves had no physical ability to stand up, causing them much unnecessary suffering."

Other charges mentioned are dragging lambs by the leg, hitting animals with sticks, plastic pipes or fists, hitting sheep on the head while standing on their backs, tying a calf to a forklift and dragging him carelessly, pushing a hand into the eye socket of a calf, putting out a cigarette on a calf's leg, and shoving a stick into a calf's anus.

It is encouraging that some legal action has finally caught up with Tnuva's slaughterhouse. In Israel, as everywhere else, enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is all too rare when it comes to the animal industries. The state attorneys, however, focused on low-ranked workers: two lowest-ranked employees and two managers low in the slaughterhouse hierarchy. That is despite the fact that these four abusers acted on behalf of the slaughterhouse management and owners. By focusing on marginal employees, the state allows the replacement of a few employees by others, while the minds behind the violence remain untouched by the law.

Watch a photo album from the undercover investigation

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Cattle slaughter on Israeli mainstream TV

Yesterday, after anxious introductions, an Israeli mainstream, commercial TV channel aired some fragments of videos taken by undercover investigators in kosher slaughterhouses. The show is now available online (the 16.10.13 show's last item).

The exceptional broadcast concludes a continuous debate on the Channel 10 show Tsinor Laila (night pipe) – a near-midnight mixture of news and light stuff, using a lot of Internet videos sources, including amateur videos. Earlier this month, Tsinor Laila hosted Anonymous for Animal Rights' Ronen Bar, who infiltrated the largest mammal slaughterhouse in Israel and collected evidence of horrific and systematic abuse. Some of Bar's footage has been aired on TV, but no slaughter images were released. In the recent interview, Bar challenged Tsinor Laila to show slaughter images so consumers may be able to make better informed choices about meat eating.

Bar's call provoked hundreds of comments on Facebook, and Channel 10 accepted the challenge. The result is a short (minutes 22:24-24:07) collage of kosher slaughter video fragments from kosher slaughterhouses in the USA and Ireland.

The fuss over these 103 seconds is at least as revealing as the footage itself. The show starts with an exceptional declaration:

"We open tonight's show with a warning, a warning concerning the graphic images we are about to show at the end of the show, in about 25 minutes. For the first time on Israeli TV we are going to show pictures that animal rights activists struggled so much to broadcast, pictures of how the slaughter of animals that reach our plate looks like. We are going to ask, only tonight, to remove children from the last part of the show, and of course anyone who may be offended by broadcasting these pictures, and later on we will discuss what brought us to show these pictures."

The host repeats the warning twice before the slaughter footage finally appears, and he even suggests viewers to switch to another channel –- a suggestion probably as rare on TV as showing animal slaughter.

The Tsinor Laila precedence demonstrates how alternative Internet media may affect mainstream media. Showing animal slaughter on TV used to be unthinkable, but the very wide internet distribution of undercover investigations' evidence is hard to ignore.


Feeding cattle with chicken manure: a common practice with sickening results

Chicken manure seems like a strange diet for cattle, but it is routinely fed to them (1.5-3 kg a day). It is considered as a cheap source of nitrogen, yet it is also a source of both pathogens and medications that were given to the chickens.

On 15 August, Dr. Nadav Galon, Director of Veterinary Services and Animal Health at the Ministry of Agriculture, sent a letter to all cattle farmers, reminding them that it is allowed to feed chicken manure to cattle, but only if the manure went through proper thermal treatment. Galon also stressed that it is forbidden to feed manure to dairy cows and to beef cattle in the last 15 days of their lives.

Apparently, this casual warning didn't work. Less than two months later, Galon sent the cattle farmers a new letter:

"Last month we witnessed an exceptional number of cattle morbidity, lying down and mortality cases, following the use of chicken manure as feed. These cases occurred in cattle herds on pasture, in feedlots and in replacement calves [young cows before the milking routine] on dairy farms."

Galon explains that at least some of the manure has not been processed properly for feeding purposes, and some of the fed cattle have not been vaccinated.

What is the solution, according to the Veterinary Services? Avoiding chicken manure in cattle feed is not even mentioned as an option. Instead, the Director warns cattle farmers to use authorized feed only, and if they buy chicken manure directly from chicken farmers, they have to keep records of the manure's history and process it against bacteria. The farmers are also ordered to vaccinate their cattle against botulism (a bacterial fatal disease) before giving them the manure.

Bon appétit!


Tnuva's slaughterhouse update: no improvement in slaughter supervision

A Yedi'ot Aharonot news report (24 October) reveals that the Ministry of Agriculture did not fulfill its commitment to improve the supervision of Israel's slaughterhouses.

In September 2012, an Anonymous for Animal Rights activist applied for a job in Adom Adom slaughterhouse, owned by the country's largest food company, Tnuva. During his 19 days of work there, the activist secretly documented systematic, illegal abuse of cattle and sheep, much of it supported by the slaughterhouse's management. Some of the footage was exposed in December 6 by Israel's leading investigation TV show, Kolbotek. An unprecedented public outcry following the show forced the Ministry of Agriculture to "do something about it." The Ministry soon declared that it placed cameras in that slaughterhouse and in other Tnuva facilities, for supervision purposes. This claim was presented not only to the media, but also to the Supreme Court.

A few days ago, the State Attorney admitted that these declarations were false. An updated checkup proved that no cameras were placed in "sensitive spots" since the slaughterhouse managers feared that documentation would leak to the public. Furthermore, it turned out that the veterinarian who was appointed to supervise the practices on site did not check the footage taken by cameras placed at other locations in the slaughterhouse. The work of this "supervisor" could not be followed since there are no records of his work. In two other slaughterhouses examined, supervision through cameras is still technically impossible.

Another failing revealed by the State Attorney leads to the Ministry of Agriculture's headquarter: despite committing to release supervision guidelines, such guidelines were not yet approved. Nevertheless, in the process of preparing them, the Ministry's officials decided to drop completely the instruction to place cameras in the slaughter points.

The affair is currently under discussion at the Supreme Court.

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Cattle and sheep slaughter in Gaza

About a year ago, Anonymous for Animal Rights conducted an undercover investigation at Israel's largest mammal slaughterhouse, Tnuva's Adom Adom. Now, a rare review of Gaza mammal slaughterhouses was released on News1. It is important to note that this review has nothing to do with the national conflict in our region. On the contrary, it demonstrates how different and even mutually hostile nations cooperate against animals. Australia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority all work very well together when it comes to exploiting and harming animals.

Jonathan Dahoah-HaLevi's 5 November report points out that 20% of the 60,000 sheep sent from Australia to Israel annually are transferred to the Gaza Strip. Towards Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) in mid-October, over 9,000 cattle and several thousand sheep were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip.

Dahoah-HaLevi examined dozens of videos taken in the Gaza Strip this Eid al-Adha and uploaded to YouTube. According to his review, cattle are transported while roped inside open small trucks, or in tractor-drawn carts. When moving through city center, many people gather around the cattle and cheer loudly. Beating the cattle with sticks or whips is a regular method to make them turn to the truck's opening for unloading, as well as pulling them by the rope around their head. No ramps are used to allow safe walk out of the truck, so the animals are in fact dropped down from the height of about one meter onto the road. The fall is very intense, sometimes on the knees and belly.

At Gaza's major slaughterhouse, cattle are forced into a large metal restraining device, where only their neck and head stick out. The device is turned until the animal is restrained upside down (a method also common in Israel). In one video, the time between turning upside down to slaughter is 26 seconds, and during this time the bull or cow move their head fiercely from side to side. Then the slaughterer cuts the neck by moving a knife back and forth for two seconds. The cut is deep, yet over the next 11 seconds (the end of the video) two more cutting actions were performed.

Other slaughterhouses in the Gaza Strip have no such restraining device; in fact, some of the killing is done on the streets in the presence of hundreds of people of all ages. In many cases, the terrified animal is roped to a pole, while typically trying to escape. Slaughterers tie the bull's legs and pull them violently backwards (using a forklift in one video) so the body of the animal is stretched and the neck is exposed. Slaughter often starts with a surprising knife attack on the animal's neck, causing severe bleeding. Only when the bull weakens the slaughterer completes the killing. The wounded bulls are seen struggling for their life and remain standing for a long time, sometimes over one minute. In one case, dying lasted over 3 minutes. Another method is literally sawing the animal's neck with a knife for 30-48 seconds, as seen on two videos. A third restraining method is pulling the animal to different directions by ropes and by the tail. These methods are not very efficient, and some of the victims escape. In such cases, a mob chases them and brings them down after a long, violent struggle. In one case, a running bull was shot in the legs.

Such videos, including sheep slaughter videos, are easily traceable on YouTube. In his news article, reporter Dahoah-HaLevi offers to provide links to the videos he examined.


Unloading Australian cattle at Eilat port

This picture was taken this weekend and published by Let the Animals Live Eilat. It documents the unloading of a calf from the ship Pearl of Para, which has just arrived from Australia. The posture of the head implies that the large calf was alive and conscious when hanged by the tied legs and driven by a forklift. Let the Animals Live Eilat did not provide further information. The picture instantly went viral on Facebook.

Pearl of Para turned infamous in 2012, after 400 pregnant cows died while shipped from the USA to Russia. Another widely covered incident occurred this September, when a shipment of 5,240 cattle destined to Israel turned back to Fremantle (in Western Australia) after seven days at sea, due to mechanical failure. The expected 17 days journey eventually lasted about 35 days.

There is nothing new about the systematic abuse of Australian cattle and sheep once they reach Israel. On July, Anonymous for Animal Rights' undercover investigation was aired on Channel 10 news, exposing cruelties during the unloading of sheep and on a cattle fattening farm. Another Anonymous for Animal Rights' investigation was aired on Channel 2 a year ago, exposing routine abuse of cattle and sheep at Israel's largest mammal slaughterhouse, Bakar Tnuva (Adom Adom).


Australian cattle in Gaza: Israel looks the other way

On 11 December, Animals Australia released extensive evidence of Australian cattle being tortured and killed in the Gaza Strip. Animal Rights in Israel has addressed this issue a month ago, after a News1 reporter revealed that dozens of videos of extremely cruel slaughter during Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) are available on YouTube. Animals Australia's exposure of the torture videos is a part of an attempt to urge Australian MP's to ban live exports.

The Israeli media and officials ignore the exposure almost completely. An exceptional story on the Gaza slaughter appeared in the newspaper Ma'ariv, yet even the Ma'ariv reporter presented it as a piece of foreign news.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Israeli traders are the middlemen between Australian and Palestinian traders, and therefore Israel is responsible for the torture both on Australian ships and in the Gaza Strip. 20% of the 60,000 sheep sent from Australia to Israel annually are transferred to the Gaza Strip, and towards the last Eid al-Adha, over 9,000 cattle and several thousand sheep were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli MK's and Ministers should learn about the Gaza slaughter practices no less than their Australian counterparts. When you write to them (many Israeli officials, including PM Benjamin Netanyahu, have a Facebook page), please mention that illegal torture is inherent to this trade, not only in Gaza but in Israel as well.

The new Australian website about slaughter in Gaza

More on slaughter in Gaza

Abuse at Eilat Port

Abuse at Israel's largest mammal slaughterhouse