Israeli minister proposes population transfer of stray cats, citing Jewish law

Jas Chana

A cat lying down in the shade near the Cave of Elijah in Haifa, Israel, July 15, 2015. (Garrett Mills/Flash 90)

A cat resting in the shade near the Cave of Elijah in Haifa, Israel, July 15, 2015. (Garrett Mills/Flash 90)

(JTA) — The agriculture minister of Israel has recommended a population transfer of the country’s stray cats and dogs to control their numbers, arguing that the current practice of spaying and neutering the animals violates Jewish law.

In a recent letter to Israel’s environmental protection minister, Uri Ariel of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party suggested that the budget allocation for the treatment of stray animals be used to “transfer dogs and cats of a single gender (all the males or females) to a foreign country that is willing to accept them,” Ynet reported.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry’s current program for controlling the stray-animal population in the country involves spaying and neutering them. But Ariel said this method raises concerns about the animals’ well-being and violates God’s biblical decree for every animal to “go forth and multiply in the land of Israel.”

The ministry’s program has been highly successful, with over 100,000 cats spayed or neutered across the country in recent years, Ynet reported, and ministry officials criticized Uriel’s recommended change.

“It’s a shame that he is destroying all the progress we have made on animal welfare issues dating back to the beginning of his term,” ministry officials said about Ariel.

Knesset member Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party wrote a letter to Ariel, saying: “Spaying and neutering street cats is the only action being taken to prevent uncontrolled growth, and preserve the health of the stray population. Ending this program will allow for a spike in the number of stray kittens being born every year, which will increase the number of cats which will die of hunger, thirst, cold, dehydration and more.”

Israeli animal rights activists launched a petition, with 9,000 signatures as of Monday, to prevent Ariel’s recommendation from being enacted.

“As a result of your decision, thousands of street cats will go hungry, and the financial burden on the citizens will only grow as a result,” the activists wrote.

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