Why these pigs are Israeli life-savers

Kibbutz Lahav is a key factor in Israel’s global reputation for cutting-edge medical research


One thing that Israel is known for, around the world, is medical research.

However, one thing that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think of the country, is pig-rearing.

The pigs at Kibbutz Lahav aren’t destined to end their days as bacon sandwiches though. Instead they’re part of a far more important endeavour - a medical research project that seeks to improve screening for colorectal cance, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the Western world.

Pigs have numerous physiological similarities to humans, and the Kibbutz's herd is used by companies from around Israel for testing medical devices, drugs and drug delivery systems.

Another project that benefits from the Kibbutz's work is the development of a mechanical heart valve that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Animal rights activists have expressed objections to the research but institute manager Ofer Doron says the animals are well looked after and all activities comply with Israeli law. "We work with pigs for the sake of humans," he told the BBC.

Raising pigs for their meat has been banned in most of Israel since 1963, but Kibbutz Lahav is an exception because of its medical research requirements.

About a quarter of the Kibbutz's staff are religious Jews, happy to work with the pigs for research, but not to consume their meat. However, a few of the staff do eat the pork that is an inevitable by product of their life-saving work.


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