A bill meant to protect animals from abuse and cruelty that was passed at the Ministerial Legislation Committee on Monday has outraged ultra-Orthodox Knesset members who fear it could severely affect the local shtreimel market.
According to the motion to amend the Cruelty to Animals law, which was submitted by Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, the importation from East Asia (and mainly China) of fur or textile products made out of the hair of dogs, cats or rabbits will be banned and punishable by a one-year prison sentence.
Tirosh wrote that about 2 million animals are slaughtered each year for the sole purpose of skinning them for their fur and they sometimes get skinned alive. "We as a society must try and prevent this unnecessary murder," the motion stated.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, whose office is in charge of implementing the law, even recommended expanding the bill to include fur of wild and domesticated animals from around the world.
'We're not in the Middle Ages anymore'
The ultra-Orthodox factions are worried that such legislation could put an end to the selling of shtreimels – the traditional Hasidic fur hats worn by haredim, in Israel.
At a coalition administration meeting held Monday MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) said that "it would be unthinkable to support a bill that forbids the import of products for such important, clearly religious purposes.
"We are not in the Middle Ages, when wearing pronounced Jewish symbols was prohibited, and I call on Tirosh and the Ministerial Committee to grant my request and amend the bill accordingly."
Moses stressed that he supports the bill in principle, but wants to introduce one exception to the law, allowing the import of fur for religious use into the country.