Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Saturday to back an initiative by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to ban the import and export of monkeys to Mazor Farm (BFC) and limit its activities to medical research in Israel only.
Erdan welcomed the decision, saying: "Banning the trade of monkeys bolsters animal rights and sends a very clear message: Trading animals for profit is wrong."
Erdan's initial move to limit BFC's operations was met with legal hurdles, as the Environmental Protection Ministry's own legal counsel expressed concern that the move may infringe on the freedom of occupation rights of businesses that trade animals.
Erdan than asked Weinstein to rule on the matter, focusing specifically on the export and import of monkeys by BFC. The minister said that the limitation will have to impact on research facilities in Israel.
"Closing Mazor Farm stems from moral, ethical and educational reasons – all of which are meant to minimize the harm and suffering of wild animals," Erdan said in his brief.
"Israel should not be a center for monkey trade for other countries," Erdan stressed, "Especially since the local demand in Israel is so low that it does not morally justify the existence of a farm whose main business is large-scale exports," he added.
Still, while the AG ruled that the Erdan's ministerial jurisdiction allows him to make extensive changes to the volume of animals trade for research purposes, there was no legal justification to bar such action altogether.
The ruling states that the import and export of monkeys for research purposes will be barred, and that BFC's breeding operations must be limited to medical research in Israel only.
Weinstein ruled that the limitation on the export and import of monkeys will be applied gradually over the next tow years. "This two-year period takes into consideration the needs of research facilities in Israel, as well as those of Mazor Farm, to adjust to these changes," he said.
The AG also ruled that the new regulations must be anchored by the proper legislation; and ordered the Environmental Protection Ministry to update the relevant international bodies of the changes, as required by various international research treaties Israel is a part of.
Israel's animal rights group welcomed the decision, saying it was "Putting an end to one of the cruelest ways in which animals in Israel are treated. Mazor Farm has been a black stain on Israel's society since the early 1990s.
"We will continue to pursue the issue for the two years until the ban takes effect, to stop the farm's cruel and corrupt trade in monkeys."
Anabel Zamir, a leader of the animal rights campaign against the Mazor Farm, welcomed the ruling, but noted that "The attorney general is still allowing animal trade for profit, under the state's sponsorship, for the next two years, without mandating proof that any such trade will be done for life-saving purposes. That's very disturbing."
BFC was unavailable for comment.