Israeli animal rights groups were up in arms after Agricultural Minister Ari Uriel proposed deporting stray cats to prevent overpopulation.

Now, it appears the Ag Minister has backed off the plan which drew widespread ridicule in both Israel and abroad.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai, the Agricultural Minister initially proposed transferring “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 country that would have been approached to take in the deported cats and dogs was not named.

The Agricultural Minister’s intended goal was to stop Israel’s growing stray animal problem in a way that, according to him, did not violate the Biblical commandment to be fruitful and multiply. However, animal rights groups claimed that the plan, which was estimated to cost $1.2 million, would actually make things worse in a country already plagued by strays because it would reduce the amount being spent to spay and neuter animals around the country.

“Since the only way to minimize the reproduction of stray animals is through spaying and neutering, that is the sole use for these funds,” leading animal rights group Let Animals Live! wrote in response to Uriel’s plan.

The group also said that since the legislation was intended initially to provide funding to sterilize animals, that they would take the matter to court.

In response to the public outcry, Ariel decided not to pursue the cat and dog deportation program but, citing his beliefs, also did not allocate any money for spaying and neutering programs for the coming year.

Instead, Ariel plans to use the money for research to find an alternative method to stop the growing stray animal population without sterilization.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Let Animals Live! filed a suit in the Supreme Court to demand the funds be returned to already underfunded spay and neutering programs aimed primarily at Israel’s huge number of stray cats.