Will the Animal Rights Law Protect Animals?

Animal Protection Law and the law on the Amendment of Turkish Penal Code were agreed on July 9, and became law after being published in the official gazette on July 14.

EN 30.07.2021 - 13:19 30.07.2021 - 14:02

Animal Protection Law and the law on the Amendment of Turkish Penal Code were agreed after the discussion at the General Assembly of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on July 9 and became law after being published in the official gazette on July 14.

Well then, will this law protect animals? Of course not. The law will not protect the animals but the people who earn money through animals and public institutions that do not fulfill their responsibilities. Despite all the reactions, the ruling party AKP enacted this law stubbornly, ignoring the years of struggle of animal rights defenders. Some details will become clear when the implementing regulation of the law is published. However, I can tell from my experience that these details will not have good results on animals. For example, the law will be able to interfere with the number of animals in the houses with the implementation regulation to be issued via the phrase in article 3 of the law, “...precautions to prevent harm and disturbance by adopted animals to the environment are determined by a regulation to be issued by the Ministry.”

Let's check now what this law covers, which AKP deputies are trying to market by calling it a

revolutionary law, and whether this law is really a revolution.

First of all, there is not even the definition of animal in the law, whereas according to the recommendation report by the Parliament’s Animal Rights Research Commission, it was recommended to define animals as sentient beings; but this article did not find a place in the law like the other recommendations of the commission. In other words, AKP deputies are misinforming the public when they state that "animals are not property but living beings".

The statement that "the sale of animals in pet shops is over" is also a big lie, because only the sale of cats and dogs is banned however reptiles, birds, rodents, and others will continue to be sold in pet shops. If you want to buy cats and dogs, you will be able to buy them through breeding farms by choosing them from the catalog provided by the pet shop. You cannot allow animals to be produced and sold and then call it “animals are not property, but they are living beings”. AKP informed the public as “The distinction between adopted and not adopted animals do not exist anymore, and prison sentence will be given for animal cruelty.” However, the fact of the matter is that if there is no red-hand in the violations to the rights of stray animals, the right to complain has been taken away from people. In order to initiate an investigation for the incident, a written application must be made to the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor by the provincial and district directorates of the Ministry of

Agriculture and Forestry. In other words, they have taken away our right to complain and given this right to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which sees animals as property. Penalties, on the other hand, are a great deception because killing animals can be punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years, rape and torture from 6 months to 3 years, and animal fighting (other than traditional ones) from 3 months to 2 years. However, sentences under 3 years can be postponed in Turkey, so in practice, the perpetrators will not actually go to jail.

Let's see whether the statement "Zoos, dolphin parks and circuses are banned" reflects the truth:

Dolphin parks will not be closed, on the contrary, these facilities will be legalized with a new regulation. While opening of new dolphin parks is not allowed in Turkey, the existing 10 dolphin parks will not be closed either. It is forbidden to bring new animals to the existing facilities, to enlarge the existing facility and to transfer the facility. However, if these prohibitions are violated, a fine of 25 thousand Turkish Liras per animal will be imposed on these torture houses, which can be considered like a reward for the dolphin park owners. The statement that the dolphin parks will be closed in 10 years has also been added by the general assembly. The commission report recommended that these parks should have been closed within 2 years, however AKP accepted that this torture would continue for 10 more years.

They have changed the name of the zoos to "natural life parks". The phrase “Real or legal persons can establish natural life parks suitable for the ethology and habitat of animals and allowing their free movement.” has been added to the law. We know that natural life parks in Turkey are no different than zoos. Moreover, we should not accept that animals are still seen as exhibits in 2021. Animals are individuals who have emotions and can feel.

The establishment of circuses has been banned in Turkey. You might think at first what a nice arrangement that is, however when you learn that there is already no animal circus established in Turkey, that these circuses come from abroad, and that the lawmakers know this very well; the arrangement does not sound that good.

The regulation regarding animals which are defined as dangerous is also not satisfactory. Dangerous breeds will be determined by the ministry. Will the Ministry create a list, and will this list be renewed periodically? Will a board be formed to create this list? Who will be on this board? How will these animals be determined? There are no details about these issues. If the ministry creates a list and updates it regularly, the number of animals identified as dangerous may increase.

Apart from this uncertainty, the details that are clear are as follows: If you live with an animal that is defined as a dangerous breed, the animals can stay with you on the condition that you provide ID for these animals within 6 months, and you wear them a muzzle and walk in uncrowded places. However, these banned breeds who are already sentenced to life imprisonment in shelters and do not have a family, will not be able to be adopted and their persecution will continue.

There are no sanctions on municipalities; the penalty for abandoning pets is 2000 Turkish Liras; traditional animal fighting is free; there are no regulations regarding hunting, fireworks, fur farms, phaetons, and animal testing. Of course, this law is not revolutionary, on the contrary, it does not solve any problems just like the many other laws enacted by the AKP. Instead, the problems that will arise in practice seem to increase the rights violations experienced by animals.

Volunteer for Law for Life Initiative – Coordinator of Animal Rights Monitoring Committee

Fatma Biltekin

Translator: İpek Laçin

This article has been produced with support from the European Union, as part of the EU's Sivil Düşün Program. The content's responsibility solely belongs to Law for Life Initiative and does not reflect the views of the EU.

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