People in Turkey have lived with animals intimately for hundreds of years in their history. They have deep-rooted values in their social structures which are also encouraged by an animal-based cultural heritage (Ozen, 2016). Therefore, it is easy to find many examples of animal love, welfare, and protection in Turkish society. In the western world, the first legal code aimed at animal protection was called the 93rd provisions of the Body of Liberties, which took effect in 1641 (Kelch, 2013). Nearly a hundred and fifty years before that, the law of Istanbul municipality named Kanunname-Ihtisab-Istanbul mentioned animal welfare regulations for horses, mules, and donkeys. That law dictates that animals should not be forced to carry excess loads as they are mute creatures. That is a very significant statement as it provides a valuable insight into the approach of Turkish society for the protection of animals. Continue reading to understand the valuable lessons Pakistan can learn from Turkey in implementing animal rights.
Animal Rights in Turkish History
According to historical records, the first attempt to enact a separate law for the protection and welfare of animals in Turkey was made in 1932. The second attempt was made in the 1980s; however, lawmakers were not able to enact legislation until the beginning of the first decade of the second millennium. Even then, the regulations were limited to increase in animal production, control of contagious animal diseases, and veterinary services. No specific mention of animal welfare could be found in previous attempts at regulating animals. In 1999, Turkey was recognized as a legal member of the European Union. This changed the situation for animal rights as the number of legislations made during this period far outnumbers the legislations made in the previous 100 years (API, 2020). The first law for the protection of pet animals was enacted in 2003, and shortly after the enactment of this law, the first animal protection law of Turkish history took effect in 2004.
The animal protection law of 2004 provides no specific definition of the word ‘animal’, and instead, it clearly states that all animals are born equal. This means that every animal, no matter the species, is formally protected under the law. There is also a formal recognition of the physical and psychological suffering of animals. The government of Turkey should be praised for their detailed regulations with regards to living animal transportation, ensuring that animals are cared for in a species-specific manner, establishment and operation of zoos requiring multiple inspections, and establishment of animal welfare committees that are made up of representatives from multiple government departments including health and education. This results in animal welfare solutions that are more holistic. However, there were limitations to this law as legislation for farmed animals failed to prohibit acts of cruelty for farm animals and did not require staff to treat animals humanely. Animals were also being used in fur farms across the country despite the enactment of the law.
Struggle for Animal Rights
In 1910, to “westernize” Istanbul just before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan ordered tens of thousands of stray dogs to be sent to a nearby island to get slaughtered. More recently, the rise of the internet and social media has led to greater activism surrounding animal welfare, fueling public outcry over mass poisonings of stray animals in Ankara and digging of mass graves for dogs to get buried alive. In 2012, Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water drafted a law that proposed rounding up city dogs and dumping them in forests in the outskirts of the city, calling them wildlife parks. In response to this, a Turkish lawyer who ran the Animal Rights Federation drafted an animal rights manifesto titled “I Promise” that pledged to improve the lives of animals, particularly stray animals. In May of 2019, the Turkish parliament created the Animal Rights Legislative commission and spent several months meeting animal rights activists, nonprofit organisations, academics, experts, and other people involved in animal welfare. Due to increased activism, Turkey will no longer consider animals as commodities under a bill that has been recently passed by the parliament, the fruit of years of activism of enthusiasts of animal welfare.
Measures Under the New Legislation
Recently, Turkey’s parliament approved a long-awaited bill on animal rights. According to the new regulations, the sale of cats and dogs at pet shops will be banned as the environment in these outlets is not conducive to the health of these animals. Animal circuses will also be prohibited. Pet owners will be liable to digitally tag their pets, and punishment and fines will be awarded to those who abandon their animals. Moreover, animals will no longer be seen as products, but as living beings with rights. Local police will also be able to establish animal protection squads that will investigate abuse cases and regulate inhumane animal sports such as cockfighting and dogfighting (DailySabah, 2021).
People in Turkey have lived with animals for hundreds of years. Over a century before the first legal code on animal rights in the West, Turkish municipal authorities devised regulations for dealing with horses, mules, and donkeys. This shows that the culture of animal welfare has deep roots in Turkish society. Under the new laws and regulations passed by the Turkish parliament in July 2021, the sale of cats and dogs will be banned at pet shops as the environment is not conducive to animal health. Moreover, fines and punishments have also been introduced for those who abandon their pets. Therefore, learning from Turkey can be a positive step for the betterment of animal rights in Pakistan.
API. (2020). Turkey. Retrieved from ANIMAL PROTECTION INDEX: https://api.worldanimalprotection.org/country/turkey
DailySabah. (2021). Turkish parliament approves long-awaited animal rights bill. Retrieved from https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/legislation/turkish-parliament-approves-long-awaited-animal-rights-bill
Kelch, T. G. (2013). A SHORT HISTORY OF WESTERN ANIMAL LAW.
Ozen, A. (2016). A Historical Overview of Turkey’s Animal Welfare Legislation. Retrieved from https://vetdergikafkas.org/uploads/pdf/pdf_KVFD_L_2195.pdf
How has Turkey developed over time in terms of animal rights?
How was Turkey able to achieve a massive legislative change in its animal rights laws?
What is the Turkish government’s policy for dealing with stray animals?
People in Turkey have lived with animals intimately for hundreds of years in their history.
The sale of cats and dogs at pet shops will be banned as the environment in these outlets is not conducive to the health of these animals.
Animal circuses will also be prohibited.
Pet owners will be liable to digitally tag their pets, and punishment and fines will be awarded to those who abandon their animals.
Animals will no longer be seen as products, but as living beings with rights.
Local police will also be able to establish animal protection squads that will investigate abuse cases and regulate inhumane animal sports such as cockfighting and dogfighting.