The Israeli government has given support to a bill that would phase out the import of animals for slaughter from Europe and Australia. The bill, drafted in collaboration with Israeli animal rights groups, is a significant blow to the controversial live sheep trade that leads to the deaths of thousands of animals.

The bill wants the importation of live animals meant for slaughter to be gradually phased out, with quotas fixed by the agriculture minister in the first stage of the phase-out, The Conversation reports. The 2019 quota would not exceed 75 percent of the number of animals that were imported to the country in 2017. It would then be reduced by 25 percent annually, with live imports being fully phased out within three years.

“We approved at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation the bill to stop live transports to Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Facebook. “It’s our duty to act and correct this enormous suffering caused to animals.”

A survey recently released by the animal rights groups supporting the move showed the bill has an overwhelming amount of public support.

“Transporting animals to Israel involves enormous suffering, and we must act to prevent this unnecessary suffering while there is an alternative that causes less pain and suffering to the animals,” said Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan. “It’s a moral duty.”

“The animals are imported from Australia and Europe in long sea journeys that could last for weeks,” says the explanatory note to the bill. “During the journeys, the animals are kept in high stocking density, covered in feces, and suffer from heat stress, from rough seas and from other severe damages. Many of them get sick and many do not survive the journey.”

According to Zohar, the bill demonstrates the values of the country and would reduce transports of live sheep and cattle, at the same time increasing the import of fresh meat free of tax as well as encouraging local production.

Israel’s strong stand on the issue is a substantial change for the industry, even though Australian live sheep exports to the country are relatively small in comparison with other big Middle Eastern markets. As it is, the trade is already undergoing significant changes – in 2017, Australia exported 88,000 live sheep to Israel, compared with the 119,049 transported in 2016. From the start of 2018 to early June, 30,676 sheep have been exported to the country. Moreover, the trade is now in hiatus, after Australia’s biggest exporter, Emanuel Exports, was suspended due to the company’s failure to provide for the welfare of transported animals, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of sheep.

Tides are thankfully turning against this cruel industry, but it is crucial to keep up the fight and spread awareness!

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