Photo Credit: Agriculture Ministry
A pig’s image on Israel’s Agriculture Ministry’s website.

Agriculture Minister Oded Forer from Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu is working on removing the restrictions on the slaughter of pigs in Israel, to allow the establishment of pig slaughterhouses throughout the Jewish State, Reshet Bet radio reported Tuesday morning.

Today, there are 120,000 pigs in Israel, raised in 24 pens on pig farms in three locations: I’billin in the north, Mi’ilya in western Galilee, and the research institute next to Kibbutz Lahav, north of Beer Sheva.

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In the draft amending the current regulations, Forer removes the geographical limitation on raising pigs, making it legal to establish pig slaughterhouses anywhere, conditioned on compliance with the veterinary requirements.

“There are no professional reasons nowadays for restricting slaughterhouses to these three localities only,” the draft reads, noting that the amendment would increase competition in the industry.

This is part of an overall move to allow the establishment of slaughterhouses for cattle and sheep throughout the country.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, 183,981 pigs were slaughtered in Israel in 2020. Pork is consumed regularly in Israel by 500,000 to 700,000 of the country’s residents, including members of the Christian religion and foreign workers from the far east.

Of course, there’s also Tiv Ta’am, an Israeli supermarket chain catering to consumers from the former Soviet Union (and Israel Beiteinu’s biggest constituency) which is notable for being the country’s most prominent purveyor of pork and other products that don’t comply with the kashrut laws. Tiv Ta’am is also the only major supermarket chain that remains open on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Pork can also be purchased in Israel in open stalls on the side of major highways, especially on Shabbat.

The Agriculture Ministry argued that the purpose of the proposed amendment is to fight the high cost of living, adding that for the religious aspects of the amendment the Ministry of Religious Services should be consulted.

MK Moshe Arbel (Shas) told Reshet Bet that the needs of Israeli Christians are being met under the existing law and that the proposed amendment is nothing more than an election ploy. Arbel also wondered why there’s no outcry from the country’s humane societies.

So, we checked one of the country’s most vociferous groups, Animals, which focuses on exposing cruelty in factory farms, promoting legislation to protect animals, and raising public awareness. Among others, we discovered a cute video Animals posted last January, “debunking” the Jewish mystical fear of consuming pork, as opposed to other non-kosher animals, such as horses and camels, which are consumed freely by our Muslim cousins (Why is everybody afraid of… ?).

Another pro-animal group, Let the Animals Live (in Hebrew the name is a play on the words Chayot-animals, and Lichiot-to live), runs a fairly frequently updated Facebook page called “A Pig Named Okjah” dedicated to creating acceptance of pigs in Israeli society. They have 4,200 followers. Here they are having some watermelon with Okjah, “the happiest pig in Israel.”

Banner for Okja’s Facebook page

Again, an obvious link between promoting pork consumption and hidden anti-Jewish sentiments.

I normally don’t agree wholeheartedly with Shas MKs, but in this case, I believe Arbel is absolutely right to fear this expansion of pig production and consumption in the Jewish State. It’s not about easing the suffering of pigs – they appear to be given decent treatment by the well-supervised farms; it’s all about removing yet another aspect of Jewish law from Israeli society, alongside permitting chametz in hospitals, non-kosher food in the IDF, and what we’re sold as the reform in the kashrut supervision industry. Taken separately, each one of these can be justified, but seen as part of a growing trend – we have reason to fear it.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.