Turkish activists slam new bill on animal rights as ‘license to kill’
The head of a leading activist group has slammed a new animal rights bill in the Turkish Parliament as a “license to kill,” opposing the government’s view that it could solve Turkey’s worsening problem of violence against stray animals.
“The new bill simply tells the municipalities that they can keep killing stray animals as they want,” Metin Yıldırım, the chair of the Association to Protect Stray Animals and Environment, told the Turkish daily Birgün on June 18.
In the face of the public outrage, the Turkish government announced this weekend that a new ministerial bill for animal rights would be prioritized following the June 24 elections.
The new government bill was sent to parliament in April, proposing animals in Turkey “are not property,” in a landmark change of perspective in Turkish law.
Those who dare to torture animals will receive four months to three years in prison according to the new bill.
If the perpetrator violates the freedoms of multiple animals in the same instance, his or her sentence will be increased by one and a half times, rising from six months to four-and-a-half years in jail, according to the draft.
The legal status of animals has been a much debated topic in Turkey but is still not set in stone and Yıldırım claimed that the new bill would not solve the problem either.
“Under the current law, municipalities are collecting animals, poisoning them, mass-killing them or transporting them to wild places with no food resource, condemning them to death. Some of them, such as the municipality of [the Central Anatolian province of] Kayseri went even further by burying around 800 stray dogs alive. They would still be able to do this even after the new bill becomes law,” Yıldırım said.
Although the new bill proposes heavier jail sentences to those who practice violence against stray animals, these sentences would still be light enough to be turned into fines.
Equally important was the fact that, Yıldırım added, the municipalities could not be prosecuted without the approval of the Forest and Water Work Administration.
“For a real solution, the minimum jail sentence in cases of violence against stray dogs should be at least three years and no officials should be kept exempt in any way,” Yıldırım stressed.