Sunday, September 30, 2012

Turkish Animal Lovers Send Strong Message to Government

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of Istanbul today to demonstrate against the Turkish government's proposed changes in law 5199, which deals with animal protection. Animal rights activists are suspicious of government plans to round up stray dogs and cats, spayed and neuter them, and then place them into "natural parks." They fear that these parks will turn into death camps where the animals will be neglected and worse perhaps undergo euthanasia.  

Until now, the norm in Turkey is for municipalities to spayed and neuter animals and return them to the streets. Often the dogs and cats become part of the neighborhood and are taken care of by local residents who feed and take care of them. In fact, during the evenings one can often see elderly people roaming around checking on how the animals are doing. 

If life was only for humans what were
animals doing on Noah's Ark
In addition to the forced gathering of the animals, activists are worried about plans by the government to limit how many pets one can own, and the forced killing of certain breeds of dogs considered a danger to the public, such as pit bulls. In addition, sick stray animals currently in shelters, such as Istanbul Greater Municipality's Hasdal shelter, are rumored as experiencing serious neglect and sentenced to slow death due to the poor conditions; in other words, the activists' mistrust is based on the track record of local governments to care for the animals.  For more on the law, you can read two articles: one from Hurriyet Daily News, and the other appearing after today\s demonstration in Todays Zaman (both in English).  
No to the Law of Death!

Lastly, the activists retain in their collective memory the case in late Ottoman history when in 1910 dogs were rounded up and placed to die on islands close to the city. While this cruel project quickly came to an end,some local residents believed that the government's cruel treatment led to numerous catastrophes such as the Balkan wars as a divine payback (see important related article on this and the changes in the law). 

The massive turnout today will place the government on the defensive and will challenge any future changes. It will also ensure that dogs, cats, and other animals, will have some sort of representation.  What is for sure the change in the law will not go unnoticed and the demonstration today has sent a strong message that animal lovers also should have a voice in government policy.  

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