The Knesset plenum last week approved in its preliminary reading a bill repealing a 1950 law protecting plants from goat damages, submitted by MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint Arab List). The new law, should it pass, will reverse the sages’ prohibition on raising sheep and goats in the Land of Israel, for fear of the damage they would cause fields and forests. Indeed, people who raised “small cattle” (Be’hema dakah) were disqualified from testifying in rabbinical court because they were among people who did not contribute to society, such as gamblers.
Now MK Zahalka argues that the old law limiting the areas where goats may be raised is hurting the main source of income of the Bedouin community in the Negev.
The preliminary vote was 44 for and no objections.
The explanatory notes accompanying the Zahalka bill read: “The Plant Protection Law (goat damages), 5710-1950, was enacted under the argument that the spread of goats in Israel should be limited to the extent possible, because they damage the Mediterranean grove. We believe that the law is racist, and was enacted for political reasons, in order to harm one of the main sources of income of a large part of the Bedouin population in the Negev.”
“In addition,” the notes continue, “not only do black goats not harm nature, they actually contribute to the ecological balance.”
The Queensland, Australia Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has issued a report saying that “in very high numbers, the goat is environmentally devastating. It eats nearly all plant life below 1.8m. Its hooves break the soil which, combined with destroyed plant life, makes the soil more vulnerable to erosion.
“On Queensland islands […] goats have caused much damage with eradication programs being implemented to control the pest.
“The feral goat has been blamed for the decline of native animals such as the yellow-footed rock-wallaby. When forced out of rock shelters by the goat, the yellow-footed rock-wallaby is easy prey for foxes and wedge-tailed eagles.”
MK Zahalka argued that those claims have been refuted and that goats are actually good for the environment, as they thin out the forests, making them easier to control in case of fire.