The Cat Transfer

Public outrage over suggested exiling of stray cats is really about the role of religion in the Jewish state

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Two weeks ago Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel sent a letter to Minister of Environmental Protection) Avi Gabai in which he pondered the transfer of stray dogs and cats to another country. The letter became public and scandal ensued.

The reason behind this seemingly strange request is the religious prohibition on castrating animals. This prohibition is based on a verse that speaks of defected animals unfit for sacrifice: “Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the Lord” (Leviticus 22:24). The prohibition against emasculating animals aligns with other commandments forbidding cruelty toward animals. “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4), for example.

Not surprisingly, Ariel’s suggestion enraged cat-lovers and animal rights activists, who view neutering as the only humane way to control the number of both domesticated and stray animals. Reactions to his suggestion ranged from ridicule-to-outrage and from funny-to-obscene as they dealt almost exclusively with the person rather than with the moral alternative he offered. 

The head of left-wing Meretz party, Zehava Galon, wrote on Facebook: “When the minister in charge of animal rights suggests something that contradicts any form of basic morality, this is the time to look for a foreign country that will be willing to take him.”

But perhaps the most telling response was offered by actor and comedian Orna Banai, an outspoken lesbian and animal rights activist, who told the Ynet news portal that “it is simply absurd that the Minister of Agriculture, who is supposed to prevent cruelty to animals, is doing the exact opposite … maybe instead of another temple, the Third Temple should be built for the cat … castration is an utmost important act that prevents the birth of new cats into this cruel world.” Banai continued to rant about how Ariel is dangerous and delusional, and how Israel is better off without him.

Galon, Banai and a host of others conveniently ignored Ariel’s active role in preventing cruelty to animals. They also ignored his second suggestion in the same letter that called for “funding research for alternative ways to prevent increases of stray animals that do not involve castration, neutering or killing.” This second clause suggests that the outrage is not about cruelty to animals, but about the polarizing struggle over Israel’s identity. 

Galon and Banai represent those who simply can’t understand nor can they accept the kind of morality raised by a representative of religious Jews. To the left-wing liberal mind, Ariel can’t be but a delusional person unfit for the company of normal people. Though as expected, Ariel withdrew his cat transfer proposal following a number of death threats that forced police to allocate body guards for his safety.

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