ISTANBUL - Agence France - Presse
Thousands of animal rights activists demonstrated today in Istanbul to protest against a government plan to keep strays away from city centres, branding the move "a death law for animals, AFP reported.
"The crowd of some 4,000 activists marched to the main Taksim Square, some of them with their animals, blowing whistles and chanting slogans.
"No to death law for animals!" read a large banner held by the demonstrators.
They criticised the move as a way of exterminating Turkey's large population of strays, which they said were usually fed and neutered through activists' efforts.
"They are not just cats and dogs, they are our children," read another placard, as the activists urged the government to scrap the bill, which awaits a parliament vote.
Supporters of the bill say it will help protect the estimated hundreds of thousands of strays from the cruelty they are often subjected to on the streets.
The bill's opponents argue the animals will simply starve.
"Cats and dogs are domestic animals," said Birgul Rona, from the Turkish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Their natural habitat is the environment they live in alongside humans." Animal rights campaigners fear the relocation could lead to a repeat of what they call the "dog massacre" of 1910, when Istanbul's strays were collected off the streets as part of efforts to modernise the city and shipped to a nearby island to die.
The parliamentary vote was indefinitely postponed after more than 10,000 activists demonstrated nationwide last month.
The draft legislation also foresees introducing limitations on the number of pets people can adopt.