ISRAEL TO BECOME FIRST NATION TO BAN HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLES FROM STREETS AND HIGHWAYS
Israel is about to become the first country to ban horse and donkey-drawn carts from city streets and highways, the culmination of a 10-year campaign waged by the U.S.-based Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI) and its Israeli sister charity, Hakol Chai (Everything Lives). Israel’s Transportation Ministry approved Hakol Chai’s suggested change in the regulations to ban the phenomenon nationwide. The change now goes to the Knesset Finance Committee for final approval, with no objections expected.
Horses and donkeys are used in Israel to haul furniture, appliances, old clothing, scrap metal, rocks from construction sites, and heavy produce like watermelons to market. They are often starved, beaten, denied veterinary and farrier care, forced to stand in the hot sun all day without water, and to wear ill-fitting harnesses that gouge into their flesh. At the end of the summer or when they are too ill or weak to work, they are abandoned. Some collapse in the street, still in their harnesses.
CHAI/Hakol Chai’s campaign began by exposing the abuse in order to raise public consciousness, including twice shutting down a major horse abuser operating in Jaffa, the old part of Tel Aviv, who hacked unsold horses apart with an axe in front of other horses and sold the meat as cow meat. The charity rehabilitated horses it rescued, as resources permitted.
Hakol Chai’s letters to the Transportation Ministry and to Mayors throughout the country called for an end to this phenomenon and its posters throughout Jaffa urged the public to report horse abuse. Volunteer celebrity musicians and singers performed at Hakol Chai’s well-attended rally at a popular Tel Aviv night club, drawing more publicity and support to the cause.
The charity’s proposal to the Tel Aviv City Council asking that it issue a city-wide ban on the phenomenon resulted in the Council calling a special meeting to discuss the issue for the first time. Hakol Chai exerted additional pressure by demonstrating outside the building where the Council met. Tel Aviv eventually put up signs at several entrances to the city to block entry by carts, but cart horse owners ignored the signs and the police failed to issue fines. Hakol Chai initiated a “witness” campaign, urging people throughout the country to send it photos of cart horses and their drivers using their cell phones. The photos were made into a poster collage captioned “Israel in the 21st Century,” showing that the problem continued and was widespread.
Finally, at a meeting with representatives of the Transportation Ministry, Hakol Chai presented its poster collage and requested that the regulations be changed to ban the phenomenon nationwide. The Ministry agreed to Hakol Chai’s request and Hakol Chai representatives worked with committee members to draft suggested wording for the new legislation. The charity will now work to ensure that the ban is enforced.
The good news came just in time for Horses Without Carriages International Day, December 1. CHAI is part of the International Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, whose members work in many countries to end this outmoded and cruel practice. International animal protection organizations sent congratulatory letters to Transportation Minister Israel Katz, praising his decision to adopt Hakol Chai’s suggested regulations and expressing gratitude for his forward step, which demonstrates positive and humane leadership.
CHAI/Hakol Chai also campaigns to prevent gambling on horse racing from coming to Israel and promotes character values and critical thinking via its educational programs in both the Jewish and Arab sectors.
It takes a long time to overcome a “tradition,” even though it may be a cruel one. One online news outlet in Israel posted a 10 minute video on the issue, interviewing us and some cart horse owners. They played the music from Fiddler on the Roof and said this scene is a part of Israel’s history, nostalgic, and many will be sorry to see it end.
From our perspective, they interviewed the woman who boards our formerly abused horses. She showed photos of the condition of the latest horse we rescued when he first came to her – starved to the bone, with a belly-full of plastic because he was so hungry, he would have eaten anything – and they filmed the same horse today, fat and happy.
All of us who care about animals are glad to see this “tradition” die.
Here is Joey, before and after. The marks on his face were from an untreated fungus infection and you can see that he was starving. He also had abscesses on his feet and was unable to eat until all the plastic and other garbage he ingested had been removed from his intestines.
~ Thanks to Nina Natelson of CHAI for this excellent news. QCA has supported their campaigns by writing to the ministers and congratulates the group on their compassionate perseverance which has led to such a wonderful result.