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Israeli conservatives force fur ban off the table

November 18, 2010

From Bikyamasr
By Desmond Shephard

WASHINGTON: Israel’s Knesset moved this week to end a bill that would have banned fur use in the country after Canadian furriers lobbied hard in parliament to stop the bill. The Canadians joined forces with the ultra-conservative Orthodox leaders in the Jewish state against what would have made Israel the first country to ban fur completely.

Animal rights activists have said they would launch a renewed campaign to get the bill revitalized and back on the table.

“It was almost there, so now we just have to look hard at the parties that opposed the bill and get it back on the table,” said Tony James, an American Jewish animal rights campaigner who supported the bill. He told Bikya Masr that “Israel can show the world they can lead on animal rights, but it takes efforts.”

The decision to shelve the proposed legislation came at the end of a discussion by the coalition’s coordinating body, presided over by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi). He said he “personally supports” the bill, but cannot promote it because of opposition by MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism), a coalition member.

“I have no interest in offending the Haredi public,” Orlev told reporters after the meeting.

The bill aimed to end the trading, producing and processing of fur in Israel “except for religious purposes” – a stipulation designed to accommodate the needs of the Haredi community, who traditionally wear sable on their hats.

Moses opposed the bill despite the exception, explaining it would adversely affect kosher slaughter abroad.

Meat industry executives in the United States, however, disagreed with Moses, saying that banning fur would have nothing to do with their operations.

One executive, who asked not to be named, told Bikya Masr that “despite the idea that animals are used, most meat producing companies, at least in the United States, would not be opposed to a ban on fur.”

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The official added that personally “I don’t use or buy fur because of the horrors we have seen published about how the animals are treated.”

The bill had already passed a first reading in Israel’s parliament prior to the vocal visit from Herscovici. His visit gave credence to the conservative Orthodox members of the Knesset and eventually led to the bills downfall.

Avi Ryan, an Israeli commentator on the Knesset, told Bikya Masr in Washington on a recent visit that “politics came into play and forced the religious to show their religion.”

Herscovici, who is Jewish, said he came to Israel with another colleague from Canada because he was concerned the Knesset “might find the bill to be an easy cookie,” adding that “it might be easy to pass laws when the people you’re hurting live far away and don’t vote in your country.”

Canada’s Ministry of International Trade last month had sent its Israeli counterpart a letter warning against the fur bill and expressing concern that it “might prejudice Canadian fur trade interests or World Trade Organization obligations.”

According to the International Anti-Fur Coalition – an umbrella organization of groups in 60 countries – Israel has a tiny $500,000 share in the world’s $16 billion annual fur industry.

The figures for Israel include synthetic fur. Canada – where Jews made up nearly half of those involved in the fur trade in the 1930s – is one of the leading countries in the field, with annual sales of roughly $500 million.

The Israeli fur bill, Herscovici said, was being promoted here by non-Israeli pressure groups “because it’s easier to push through here” by people who “are hoping to throw it back to other countries as a precedent.”

Israel “should be the last to proceed with this kind of legislation,” Herscovici said, because Israel “is being demonized and delegitimized in the West in the same way that the fur industry is being demonized – and often by the same people and circles.”

For now, the bill remains off the table and despite Israeli and foreign activists cries to have it returned to the Knesset, this round was won by the conservatives and their power in the country.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    November 18, 2010 5:35 pm

    before anybody decides to jump all over a tiny little country surrounded by enemies, let us all remember that this is the ONLY nation that even went this far!!!!

    and i do believe the good guys will win and fur will be banned, eventually.

    we have to focus on being++++ and supportive of those who stand with us on this fur ban…it is attitude that is the determining factor in many things.


  2. Carol permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:12 am

    There does seem to be confusion in Israel. On the one hand religious leaders supported a ban on foie gras because “the cruel treatment of animals violates the Jewish mandate not to cause tsa’ar ba’alei hayim (the suffering of animals)” as stated by Rabbi David Rosen. However, the ultra-orthodox Hasidim Jews objected to the ban on fur because it would go against their traditions in that they would be unable to wear the round furry hat known as the shtreimel. So, does the suffering of animals violate the Jewish mandate, or not?


  3. Leah permalink
    November 19, 2010 7:10 pm

    That hat (the shtreimel) can be made with faux fur… shame on Israel… they had the opportunity to “do the right thing” and lead the world on a humane path…


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