This story appears in the December issue of VICE magazine.
There are a lot of stray cats in Israel, and some see this as a nuisance. To address the issue, the Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home party, currently castrates and sterilizes thousands of cats every year.
But in early November, Ariel sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment, claiming that the practice goes against the principles of Jewish law and the injunction to "be fruitful and multiply." He suggested that the million dollars spent every year on spaying and neutering the strays should instead be used to "transfer stray dogs and/or cats of one gender (all the males or all the females) to a foreign nation that will agree to accept them."
The project drew critical responses from the Israeli press and the political class. "It is time to look for a foreign country that would agree to absorb [Uri Ariel]," said Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party. At the same time, the leftist website 972Mag.com ironically suggested Ariel "could always build [the cats] their own settlement somewhere in the West Bank," and compared the project to the so-called "voluntary deportation" programs for African asylum seekers in Israel who would receive an amount of money if they agreed to leave for Uganda or Rwanda. Animal rights activists have also responded fervently, claiming that ending the castration program would increase the number of cats dying of hunger, thirst, or cold.
Following the controversy, Ariel finally withdrew his proposal to expel the cats. For now, the Ministry of Environment is headed back to the drawing board in search of solutions to their cat conundrum.