The Israeli pig industry has undergone rapid development in recent years, and its current volume is more than double what it was ten years ago. The pig population consists of about one 120,000 pigs at any given moment, which are kept in 24 units located in three breeding areas in the north of Israel (I’billin, Kafr Yasif and Fassuta), and in a close unit in Kibbutz Lahav in the south of Israel.
The number of sows is around 15,000, especially of the Landrace, Large-White, Pietrain breeds, or mixed of either the Dutch-German or French breeds and their cross-breedings..
There are currently three active pig slaughterhouses in Israel which are supervised by the Veterinary Services: in I’billin, in Mi’iliya, and in Kibbutz Lahav. In recent years, 197,000 pigs have been slaughtered annually in average in these slaughter-houses. It is estimated that between 500,000 to 700,000 of Israel’s inhabitants, including members of the Christian faith and the foreign workers, consume pig meat regularly.
Due to the high degree of similarity between pig and human physiology, a significant segment of the pig industry is the supply of animals for medical research, mainly for the study of cardio-circulatory diseases, immune system diseases, skin diseases and gastrointestinal diseases. The research centers in Israel are among the most advanced and developed in the world in this field, in both the scientific and ethical (prevention of cruelty to animals for laboratory use) aspects.
With the foundation of the Veterinary Services’ pig health department in 2012, a National Veterinary Officer for Pig Diseases, who specializes in pig diseases and is certified by the European College of Porcine Health Management, began actively working in Israel for the first time. The division reports to the Director of Field Veterinary Services, and works in close cooperation with both the Regional Veterinary Districts and the department in charge of Animal Welfare in the Veterinary Services, and with the Veterinary Institute’s diagnostic laboratories.
The National Veterinary Officer for Pig Diseases is a Government Veterinarian, and therefore operates according to the authority granted to him by the Animal Disease Ordinance 1985, the Animal Cruelty (Animal Protection) law 1994, the Veterinary Doctors Act and all other regulations and orders legislated according to the aforementioned laws.
In the capacity of his position, the National Veterinary Officer for Pig Diseases provides professional guidance concerning pig diseases and their prevention to field veterinarians and pig breeders; writes and updates procedures, regulations and laws concerning the supervision and enforcement in this field, including the regulation of the breeding processes, the production, and in general pigs keeping in Israel. In addition, it is his responsibility to sustain the cooperation with both local and global professionals, institutions and organizations related to the pig industry.
In September 2012 the “Guidelines for Pigs Keeping” were published on the Veterinary Services’ web site. These guidelines went into effect in January 2013, and they determine the minimal living conditions required by law for keeping and growing pigs in Israel.
Throughout 2013 the National Veterinary Officer for Pig Diseases performed routine inspections and re-inspections in all of the farms in order to enforce the execution of the new Guidelines, and in order to assist the breeders in making the changes needed to ensure that they comply with the new Guidelines.
Among the achievements made possible by the new Guidelines, one should point out the reduction to 28 days for sows kept in insemination pens; the prohibition of marking by burning or ear cutting; the progressively reduced age in which male piglets are castrated; fixation or replacement of inadequate floors or laying areas; the surveillance of feeding conditions; all above in the light of the European Directive 120/2008.