Posts on the Soglowek exposure and the Parliamentary reaction

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


Soglowek slaughterhouse: the day after the exposure

Yesterday, the TV show Kolbotek aired some of the footage taken by Anonymous for Animal Rights' hidden camera, showing systematic abuse of chickens and turkeys through neglect, defected equipment and indifferent workers. (The episode is available here, in Hebrew)

Around 30 news items on Israeli newspapers refer to the investigation. All are very critical of Soglowek.

One response to the investigation was seen on Kolbotek itself. The company's CEO, Pini Kamari, claimed that following the investigation, the unloading machine was replaced a couple of days before the exposure. The machine tilts cages violently from a great height so that chickens would fall on a conveyor belt. Kamari also claimed that "collection" time of the birds on farm has been coordinated so that waiting at the slaughterhouse would not be as long as documented. We have no information whether there is any truth in Kamari's claims.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported of an inspection visit at the slaughterhouse "several days ago." The inspectors found defected cages and an improper unloading machine. They did not take any enforcement measure, but rather advised Soglowek on improvements.

The Minister of Environmental Protection, Amir Peretz, ordered an immediate investigation into enforcement authorities. Minister Gilad Erdan said that he will initiate criminal investigation against Soglowek's managers. MK Amram Mitzna, Chairman of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee (the Parliamentary authority on the Animal Welfare Act) announced that next week the Committee will examine the animal welfare enforcement system.

Another important response is Chief Rabbi David Lau's promise to promote punitive measures against Soglowek, including withdrawal of its kashrut certification.

Earlier today, Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let the Animals Live filed a complaint against Soglowek, demanding the immediate closure of the slaughterhouse. In addition, two class-action lawsuits against the company were filed by Soglowek consumers.

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Slaughter temporarily stopped at Soglowek

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, all slaughter was stopped at Soglowek slaughterhouse yesterday and today by Veterinary Services order. The order demands the replacement of the cages used by the slaughterhouse. The condition and design of the cages is extremely poor, and many birds get stuck and die inside them.

The condition of the cages was documented by an Anonymous for Animal Rights undercover Investigation, and exposed on Tuesday on a major TV show. The Ministry and the police are currently investigating the case. Soglowek slaughters about 38,000 birds a day. The company denies that the slaughter has been stopped.


Demonstrations against Soglowek

Following the exposure of chicken and turkey abuse at the slaughterhouse of Israel's largest meat brand, a wave of demonstrations sweeps across Israel, calling for an immediate closure of the abusive "factory". Although slaughter at Soglowek was stopped temporarily by the Veterinary Services, the demands set on the company are superficial, while authorities are allegedly investigating the case. A recent "investigation" led the Ministry of Agriculture to file charges against several Tnuva slaughterhouse workers, using no information beyond anything revealed already by the undercover investigation that led to the official investigation.

Another major authority that fails to react reasonably to the exposé at Soglowek is the Chief Rabbinate. Although Chief Rabbi David Lau declared soon after the TV exposé that Soglowek's kashrut may be revoked, on the next day he met one of the company's owners and kashrut officials, and decided to allow business as usual.

The first anti-Soglowek demonstration took place in Tel-Aviv on Friday (see photos). It was covered by Channel 10's major news program. From Monday on, demonstrations will be held in Jerusalem, Herzlyia, Hadera and Holon. Yet, the public protest spreads much beyond devoted animal rights activists. Two days after the exposé, a Channel 7 article summed-up the general public response:

"Channel Ten, which broadcast the program Tuesday night, polled shoppers in several supermarkets on Wednesday. Nearly every shopper interviewed said they would stop buying Soglowek products. 'I will not buy Soglowek products until they prove they have stopped their abuse, and until the current staff resigns,' said one shopper, in a typical comment. 'They should really be sent to jail for this.'”

The Tel-Aviv demo on Channel 10 (in Hebrew)

The Channel 7 report


Soglowek updates: empty cages, sales drop, and new bills

Almost a week has passed since the systematic abuse of poultry at Soglowek slaughterhouse was exposed by Anonymous for Animal Rights on the TV show Kolbotek.

On Sunday, Anonymous' activists visited the slaughterhouse at the town of Shlomi, and confirmed that the cages are empty and no birds are slaughtered. On Monday, however, slaughter was partially resumed. As the machine that throws the birds off the cages has been banned, workers pull out the chickens by hand. Tonight, a group of ALF Israel activists tried to block the slaughterhouse.

According to separate surveys by Yedi'ot Aharonot and TheMarker, Israel's major supermarket chains report a 5-20% drop of sales of Soglowek's products. A Channel 10 survey on Saturday presents a staggering 77.2% of the respondents claiming that they will not "keep on buying Soglowek products." This survey reflects deep discontent with the company's practices, although it does not indicate actual boycott patterns. There are also sporadic reports on meat eaters turned vegetarians following the exposé.

Finally, MK Dov Kehnin, chairman of the Social-Environmental Lobby at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) introduced two bills following the exposé. One bill makes companies and managers legally responsible for animal abuse at their facilities. This bill relates to another Anonymous for Animal Rights undercover investigation, at a Tnuva slaughterhouse, exposed on Kolbotek a year ago; this previous exposé led the authorities to file charges against low-ranked workers only. MK Khenin's second bill prohibits misinforming consumers about animals' living conditions and about animal components in products. Many MK's joined MK Khenin's bills.

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More Soglowek updates: slaughterhouse blocking, Parliamentary discussion, police investigation

Eight days after the systematic abuse of poultry at Soglowek slaughterhouse was exposed by Anonymous for Animal Rights on the TV show Kolbotek, Israel is still outraged.

Two nights ago, we reported about ALF Israel activists starting to block the slaughterhouse. About 20 activists chained themselves to the gate of the slaughterhouse, while trucks loaded with turkeys started to arrive. One of the trucks was illegally neglected for many hours at the gate, before evacuated thanks to legal intervention. After 18 hours of blocking the gate, the activists were finally taken by the police. All of them were soon released.

At the Knesset, a discussion about Soglowek was held on Wednesday. It turned out that a day after the exposé Soglowek hired lobbyists who persuaded MK's to denounce "the incitement against Soglowek" while also condemning the abuse seen on Kolbotek. Seven MK's, however, spoke clearly against animal abuse as exposed by the undercover investigation. The discussion yielded no practical results, but the atmosphere in the Knesset seems more receptive than ever to animal protection bills.

According to Channel 10, the police investigation is advancing fast. 12 Soglowek workers, senior ones included, were arrested and interrogated. The police collected new evidence from security cameras and other sources, exposing further abuse and neglect. Charges against the slaughterhouse may be filed soon.


The Knesset wants to improve the Animal Welfare Act enforcement

Yesterday (12 November) the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) held a second meeting following the undercover investigation at Soglowek slaughterhouse. The Committee is responsible for some aspects of the Animal Welfare Act. The investigation in Israel's largest meat brand was conducted by Anonymous for animal Rights, and exposed on the TV show Kolbotek (29 October).

Yesterday's meeting was dedicated to a systematic weakness of the Animal Welfare Act: the fact that it is the Ministry of Agriculture who is in charge of enforcing is. In addition to neglecting this duty, the Ministry has been delaying the approval of animal welfare regulations for almost two decades by now, as MK Yifat Kariv stressed in the meeting. A bill that assigns the Ministry of Environmental Protection to implement the Act has been introduced before, but the elections stopped the legislative process.

MK Amram Mitzna, the Committee Chairman: “there is insufficient enthusiasm and will on the part of the Agriculture Ministry to take this subject [combating animal abuse] as seriously as it deserves to be taken. The Committee will soon summon the Minister of Agriculture to clarify on regulations that have not yet been presented to us and on law enforcement.”

MK Dov Khenin: "I am very critical of Soglowek factory, but from what I hear there are more places where the picture is very grim, maybe grimmer. I do not think that Soglowek is an exception. The problem is bigger and it is a systemic problem. Undoubtedly, there is a great and essential conflict of interests in the way the state authorities function on issues of animal suffering."

MK Ruth Calderon: "Here it is what has been termed 'the banality of evil.' Calling it cleanly 'food industries' is to cover up something monstrous. If we lose our compassion on this one we lose our image as a Jewish State. It's more important to people to be human than to eat schnitzel."

The meeting was also attended by Anonymous for Animal Rights representatives, including Ronen Bar, the undercover investigator at Soglowek, who suggested to put cameras inside animal facilities and connect them to the Internet.

The meeting has no direct practical results, yet it implies that the Knesset is more ready than ever to remove animal welfare responsibilities from the Ministry of Agriculture.


A team will recommend the PM which Ministry should have the authority over animal welfare

The Israeli Animal Welfare Act was adopted back in 1994, authorizing the Ministry of Agriculture to implement the Act. Since then, the Ministry has failed to enforce the Act except for some rare cases, it delayed the process of legislating animal welfare regulation, and it struggled against new pro-animal legislation.

The Ministry that represents animal exploiters is also the one in charge of animal welfare – an absurd situation, which Anonymous for Animal Rights has for years lobbied to change. Although any Ministry may be more appropriate for this task than the current one, the Ministry of Environmental Protection is the natural candidate. Accordingly, a bill to transfer the authority over the Act to the Ministry of Environmental Protection was introduced in 2012 and approved by the Government on 10 June 2012. Unfortunately, the Minister of Agriculture managed to kill that bill.

In a 13 October 2013 Government meeting, Ministers Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz raised the issue once again. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu examined their claims, and two days ago he established a team to determine which Ministry will have the authority on animal welfare. The team is led by Prime Minister’s Office director-general Harel Locker, and it includes representatives from the Law, Finance, Environmental Protection, Agriculture and Economy Ministries. The team should submit its recommendations within 90 days.


Toward improved enforcement: the Israeli Animal Welfare Act revised

The Knesset (the Israeli parliament) approved a bill to improve the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. The 1994 Act authorizes police officers and animal welfare inspectors to search any place if they have a reasonable cause to believe an offence is being committed there. However, if the suspected offence occurs on someone's property, it may not be entered without a search warrant. This technical demand effectively prevents enforcement. Most offences against animals occur on some fenced property, and it is extremely difficult to obtain information that would be accepted in court as grounds for enforcement action. Anonymous for Animal Rights encountered this difficulty, for example, when attempting to prompt authorities to stop the illegal force-feeding of geese. Farms were virtually protected from the law by simple fences.

The new amendment expands the section on enforcement actions. The most dramatic revision is authorizing animal welfare inspectors to enter any place, except for "a dwelling place," without a search warrant; inspectors and police officers are also authorized to remove from such property any animal they suspect is a victim of an animal welfare offense. Furthermore, inspectors are authorized do demand of anyone information and documents that may be needed to enforce the Act, and to make measurements and take samples. If an offence is suspected, inspectors may interrogate any relevant person, and confiscate any relevant object. The amendment also elaborates on the procedure of training inspectors.

The amendment was introduced by MKs Eitan Cabel, Dov Khenin, and Nitzan Horowitz. It was approved unanimously (21-0) at the Knesset on 24 December.