Turkey’s new animal welfare law: animals are not commodities


After years of campaigning by animal rights activists, NGOs and political factions such as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for stricter animal welfare legislation, Turkey has passed a law that defines animals as living things and not as commodities.

Following public pressure, parliament created an Animal Rights Legislative Commission in 2019 that has since met with nonprofits, activists and other key experts to develop a set of key recommendations for the law. up to date.

While current legislation punishes cruelty to animals with a relatively small fine for damage to “commodity” (comparable to the destruction of property), the update will redefine these crimes to put them on a footing. equality with violence against humans.

Torture, death and other serious harm inflicted on non-human animals will carry a prison term ranging from six months to four years in prison, preventing animal abusers from converting this to a fine or bail once convicted.

“What is good is that their crimes will be recorded in the files of the offenders”, mentionned Pelin Sayılgan, the Ankara-based representative of the Turkish Animal Rights Federation, Haytap.

Will Turkey’s New Animal Welfare Law Work?

According to Xinhua News Agency, local police will also be able to establish animal welfare squads to respond to incidents of abuse. Additionally, these forces will work to investigate controversial but popular blood sports such as cockfighting and dog fighting.

Animal allies have welcomed the comprehensive protection measures, but existing data shows that the increased severity of penalties and sentence length– not to mention an increased police presence and powers – do little to to discourage repeat offenders or reduce crime.

Prison and police abolitionists criticize this style of doubling enforcement and criminalization instead of active prevention. An example of this is how Kenya’s brutal plastic bag ban police failed to stop the production and waste of single-use plastics.

But the proposed law does not stop at the police. It will also punish intentional abandonment of pets with a fine of up to 2,000 Turkish Lira (approximately US $ 230), and require sterilization and vaccinations.

The law could also specifically restrict the sale of cats and dogs. The closure of all pet stores was initially recommended but is not included in the updated legislation. “We have had [also] demanded a ban on zoos, circus animals, fur farms and pet stores, but the new legislation does not include these facts, ”Sayılgan added.

Turkish NGO HAYKURDER (Association for the Protection, Rescue and Survival of Animals) is calling for the scope of the bill to be broadened to include these and other issues. In particular to ensure that it protects the rights of animals without distinction of race or species. The new legislation also does not address the rights and welfare of farm animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, etc.

“They see them as fellow citizens”

Turkish animals require additional protection. Stray people, in particular, are increasingly the victims of human violence. Recent incidents include the murder and consumption of five kittens, as well as the repetition poisoning of the many stray dogs in the country, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, despite public condemnation.

According to 2018 figures, the large Turkish city of Istanbul alone is home to 162,970 street cats and 128,900 dogs, many of which are favored by the community, nothing more than the famous Tombili– and inspired social media accounts and many documentaries.

The recently released Wander (2021) explores the role these autonomous dogs play in urban communities, following three individuals throughout their days on the streets of Istanbul. According to the filmmakers, it offers a unique perspective on human civilization and offers a glimpse into the marginalized world of Turkey’s stray dogs.

Many Turkish citizens regard street animals as community-owned pets, rather than traditional stray animals, and the country has a general no-slaughter and capture policy. During last year’s coronavirus lockdown, local councils were given instructions for food and otherwise Support homeless animals from each region to compensate for declining community support as people are isolated.

Talk to the Washington Post, Wander Director Elizabeth Lo said: “People really see a dignity in dogs, they see them as fellow citizens, as belonging to their streets and their communities.”

About the Author

Personal Writer | Bristol, UK Liam writes on environmental and social sustainability and animal welfare. He holds a BA Hons in English Literature and Film.