Animal Welfare Law in Turkey
The horror of dogs killed and dumped – HUNDREDS OF DEAD DOGS IN MAMAK GARBAGE DUMP – photo courtesy http://jose.kersten.free.fr.
The animal welfare law in Turkey is good, if not a little bizarre on occasions. It aims high. It is full of optimism and moral right. But it fails miserably. Sadly it is not enforced properly, which makes it all but pointless. The animal welfare laws of Mexico come immediately to mind. Good lawyers and animal welfare people draft decent legislation but the uncommitted and politically motivated government then screw it all up. Politics and animal welfare don’t go together that well (if at all) because good animal welfare hurts business and business funds the political parties. For example, Tony Blair the former UK Prime Minister regretted implementing the fox hunting legislation. It is at best a partial failure because it is worked around. Blair diluted its effectiveness – surprised?!
Back to Turkey. One of the problems with Turkey and its desire to enact legislation that protects vulnerable animals is that the country’s constitution is affected by the presence of the military. Turkey has a “militarist tradition”. For example as recently as 2007 “the military intervened in national politics, opposing the candidacy
The military and the welfare of animals is like mixing oil with water – forget it! Fortunately the “military-era” constitution might change due to referendum held recently. The people voted against the “militarist tradition”. Sensible, I say and about time. Turkey after all is trying to join the European Union and there would be conditions imposed before the country was accepted. That said the EEC tends to treat such conditions rather sloppily.
The animal welfare law in Turkey is set out in ANIMAL PROTECTION BILL LAW no . 5199. I have reproduced the entire legislation on this page: Animal Protection Law of Turkey 5199.
I refer to the legislation by reference to this page on the internet plus my own interpretation of it.
The legislation sets out its principles. Here is an example (there are more):
- a) All animals are born equal and have a right to life within the framework of the provisions of this Law.
- b) Domesticated animals have the freedom to live according to the living conditions specific to their species. The lives of ownerless animals should be supported in the same way as those of animals with owners.
- c) The necessary measures must be taken in order to protect, supervise and care
- for animals and shield them from maltreatment.
The primary clause that bans cruelty to cats is found at Bans, Article 14, clause 1:
ARTICLE 14 – The following actions in relation to animals are banned:
1. To intentionally mistreat animals, to carry out a cruel and unfair action, to beat an animal, leave them hungry or thirsty, to abandon them in extreme heat or cold, to neglect their care or to cause them physical and psychological pain.
I mentioned above that the legislation seems a bit odd on occasions. Here is and example – the definition of “domestic animal”:
e) Domesticated animal: means animals which have been cultivated and trained by humans,
Anyway there is no point dwelling on these points. It is a pretty comprehensive piece of legislation and it is designed to protect animals including cats.
It defects include:
- animal cruelty including torturing animals is treated as an “administrative crime” as opposed to a “real” crime. It is treated as a misdemeanor to use USA legislative terminology – a lesser crime. An administrative crime in Turkey is one such as smoking in closed areas.
- criminal prosecutors cannot bring a case against a person who has committed animal cruelty or abuse without a complaint from the animal’s owner2.
- When a prosecution is brought the punishment is too light – small fines.
- lack of commitment to enforcement.
The problems of enforcement of laws is not unique to Turkey, far from it. It happens in the UK
for instance. I am sure there are many instances of animal cruelty that go either undetected or if reported unresolved and unpunished. There are many reasons
for this, the greatest of which is lack of commitment, which in turn is based on the perception that domestic animals are not worthy of the full protection of the law – they are second and third class.
Examples of unpunished, ignored and perhaps condoned animal cruelty reported in Turkey are:
- the poisoning of stray animals in Erdek, Balikesir. They are poisoned with cyanide and Lystenon3. This appears to be organised killing by the authorities in lieu of proper trap neuter and return programs as specified in the legislation. The authorities who are charged with enforcing animal protection under the act are doing the exact opposite.
- On 12 March 2006 in the Mamak Municipality, Ankara, stray animals were killed. Stray dogs were reported to have been buried alive.
- Marmaris – Stray animals killed in dumping ground.
- ….hundreds of dead dogs were found in ditches around the garbage dump in Mamak, Ankara (see photo heading page). They bring these dogs here and shoot them or kill them with drugs..”3
Well, there you have it. Animal welfare law in Turkey is not well developed. There is a long way to go. Turkey wants to join the European Union but is not ready. They have the legislation but the country lacks the will to enforce it.
Animal Welfare Law in Turkey – Notes – sources:
1. Times Newspapers Monday September 13th 2010 – page 31.