An Israeli cabinet minister has risked the wrath of his nation's animal lovers by proposing to send stray dogs and cats to another country as an alternative to government-funded efforts to sterilise them.

"Use the budget 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," Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel suggested in a leaked letter to a cabinet colleague.

The proposal, which a spokesman for Mr Ariel said had been rejected after initial consultations, was roundly criticised by animal rights activists and bemused opposition politicians.

"No way am I going to apply for a foreign passport for Pitzkeleh," former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni tweeted above a photo showing the smiling politician reclining on a sofa and feeding her cat.

Mr Ariel, a religious Jew and a member of the far-right Jewish Home party, is reported to view spaying and neutering as possible violations of God's directive "to be fruitful and multiply" and ritual law that prohibits animal cruelty.

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