IN THE NEWS: Dozens of cows perish in hot, crowded live transport ship to Israel

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IN THE NEWS: On JUN 15, 2019

Rights advocates call practice ‘shocking and disturbing' after video emerges of workers unloading surviving animals with electric prodders

Dozens of calves died aboard a livestock transport ship which arrived in Israel last week, bringing charges of animal cruelty from rights advocates.

The ship from Australia bearing 20,000 calves and lambs arrived in Eilat on the morning of Friday, June 8. Workers began removing the animals from the ship Friday night, and didn't finish for five days. The animals onboard were left in hot, crowded conditions.

In video evidence from the scene broadcast by Channel 12 news, workers are seen removing the animals from the ship with electric shock prodders.

The Agricultural Ministry said 34 of the calves died onboard, and 30 died after disembarking, according to the report.

A spokesperson for the Israel Against Live Shipments group said that in his 15 years fighting the practice, he had never seen such cruelty.

Footage posted by the group Thursday showed cows, which the group said had been on the ship from Australia, lined up on the floor dead and bloated, covered in what appears to be mud or feces, many with blood and other liquids seeping from their mouths.

Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich, who is a vegan, said she had seen footage of the ship and said "it's shocking and disturbing both in terms of animal welfare and in terms of our health."

The issue of live animal shipments gained renewed attention earlier this month, when two cow carcasses washed up on the Tel Aviv shoreline, in separate incidents, horrifying bathers.

Animals (formerly Anonymous for Animal Rights), a rights group, has said ships often dump sick or wounded animals into the sea, sometimes when they were still alive.

Nearly 50,000 live calves were shipped to Israel for fattening and slaughter in January alone.

Last year, the Knesset green lighted a bill in its preliminary reading to stop the live transports of hundreds of thousands of lambs and calves from Australia and Europe to Israel each year.

The proposed legislation seeks to gradually reduce livestock numbers being imported into Israel and to stop them completely within three years, moving entirely to the import of chilled meat.

According to the bill's explanatory notes, animals on livestock transports are subject to severe overcrowding, become drenched in their and other animals' feces and suffer from heat overload and from severe injuries resulting from being shaken around by the waves.

Many of them become ill or do not survive the journey.

A ministerial committee gave the go-ahead for the bill last July, after which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uploaded a photograph of a calf covered in excrement and wrote, "We approved at the Knesset Committee for Legislation a bill to stop the live shipments to Israel.

"We have to properly correct the great pain being caused to animals."

Last July, 228 lawyers signed a petition calling for live shipments to be stopped, saying they contravened legislation on animal rights.

In May 2018, 60 senior rabbis signed a letter that said it was "neither the way of the Torah nor of human morality to allow such cruelty to animals."

Nevertheless, 685,000 calves and lambs were shipped to Israel in 2018, compared with around 500,000 in 2017 — a rise of 37 percent.

Protests in Israel — led by the NGOs Animals and Let Animals Live, intensified following an exposé in April by Animals Australia, broadcast on Australian TV's "60 Minutes," into the appalling conditions in which sheep were shipped to the Middle East on weeks-long journeys.

On one of the journeys documented, 2,400 sheep perished and were thrown overboard.

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