Ten months after the expose: charges pressed against "Adom Adom" slaughterhouse employees
Abuse at Adom Adom's slaughterhouse was exposed on a report shown on Israeli TV on December 6th, 2012, which documented calves and lambs being led violently to their slaughter, enduring beatings, electric shocks, and being dragged by the leg or other body parts, in some cases using a forklift. The report led almost immediately to a massive media response, and quickly turned out to be the biggest exposé of the animal farming industry in Israel.
In April, following an appeal lodged by Anonymous, Israel's supreme court ordered the public prosecutor to press charges. Despite this, almost six months had passed before charges were pressed against four employees who were documented taking part in the abuse: the slaughter line manager and his deputy, and two slaughterhouse contract employees. No charges were pressed against more senior employees, such as the general manager at the slaughterhouse. The decision to lay the blame solely on less senior employees, and the failure of management to assume any responsibility, raised considerable criticism: for example, in an article on the "Walla!" portal on October 3rd, 2013, criminal law expert and Anonymous activist Dr. Asaf Harduf writes:
"When violence is exposed, management shirks responsibility, claiming that such violence is not in keeping with company and industry policy. But is that, in fact, the case? The report exposed not only violence and abuse, but also callousness on the part of management who instructed employees to use electric prods on a regular basis. This demonstrates routine practice in the industry. Where did employees learn these practices? Where were the inspectors? Where were the managers? And if this is not standard industry practice, what is?"
In addition to slaughterhouse management, the Ministry of Agriculture was also faulted, as the ministry in charge of enforcing the Animal Welfare Law. In recent years, objections have been repeatedly raised to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry most closely allied to the animal farming lobby, has a clear conflict of interest which prevents it from effectively enforcing the Animal Welfare Law, and a bill was even proposed to transfer implementation of the law to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. In an op-ed in Maariv ("Charges against 'Adom Adom' employees: nothing to be proud of", October 2nd, 2013), environmental correspondent Aviv Lavi criticised the Ministry of Agriculture's response to the affair:
"The Ministry of Agriculture has no reason to be proud of the charges pressed against "Adom Adom" employees. They have aimed too low: at slaughter line workers and junior managers. Those captured by "Anonymous" investigator Ronen Bar on hidden camera abusing calves, beating them, electrocuting them, or dragging them on the ground with a forklift, will be charged; Senior managers can relax and carry on regardless. Managers, veterinarians, Tnuva, which reaps the profits – all these knew nothing, saw nothing, and heard nothing. The brutality taking place right under their noses was part of the factory routine, yet they managed to completely overlook it and will not be held accountable in a court of law.
The Ministry of Agriculture has also managed to miss another opportunity to prove that it is worthy and capable of protecting animals in the food industry. It had all the evidence at its disposal: ministry inspectors either did not know or did not want to know what was happening behind closed doors at the meat factory, and were it not for "Kolbotek", we would not know either. In recent years, we have heard more and more calls to remove the oversight of the Animal Welfare Law from the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture. The "Adom Adom" scandal and the limited charged filed
yesterday will cost the Ministry of Agriculture a few more points in this struggle."
"Tsinor Laila" panel discussion: to show or not to show slaughter footage?
Following the charges, Ronen Bar, the underground investigator who uncovered the abuse, was interviewed on the popular late night television show "Tsinor Laila". In the interview, Bar stressed that the use of violence is part and parcel of the job, and is dictated by the nature of the work at the factory: "To bring an animal to slaughter, you need to hurt it, or to frighten it. Either violence, pain, or fear." In addition, Bar spoke out against the fact that actual slaughter footage taken in the course of the investigation was never aired (not even in the "Kolbotek" report), and called for the host of Tsinor Laila, Guy Lehrer, to do so on his show. Lehrer replied that a previous show featured the horrified reactions of people exposed to slaughter footage (the footage itself was not shown), but Bar insisted that there is considerable public interest in showing the actual slaughter.
Following Bar's criticism, he was invited once again to the studio, for a debate with restaurateur Yankale Schein, on the question of whether or not to screen footage of actual slaughter. Schein objected to showing such footage (in his words: "Some things you do not show, just as on the Discovery Channel they don't show what happens when the lion eats the lioness" [sic]), and went on to object to the vegetarian lifestyle ("Human nature is not to choose. Human beings are born predators") and dismissed any concern for other animals ("There is no such thing as moral or immoral where animals are concerned").
After the debate, "Tsinor Laila" opened the floor for discussion on its Facebook page, and a facebook status they posted on the matter garnered over 2500 "likes" in favor of showing the slaughter footage on their show. So far, it is not clear whether the overwhelming response will lead to the footage being aired.
One can only hope that the more thorough the media coverage, the more the public will realize that responsibility for animal cruelty in the food industry lays not with a handful of employees, but with senior management, with law enforcement agencies who are not .doing their job, and not least with consumers, who, knowingly or not, fund such abusive industries out of their own pocket.