Turkey No Longer Considers Animals As A Commodity

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Turkey is about to pass a highly anticipated animal-rights bill and it is expected to be presented to the Turkish Parliament and enacted into law probably in a couple of weeks. The new legislation will reshape and define animals as living beings instead of being classified as “commodities,” as is the case under the currently existing law. It also seeks and defines jail time for anyone who might kill abuse, or torture animals in any way. 

The legislation aims to address incidents of violence perpetrated toward animals in the country, following by public outcry regarding the treatment of stray animals by government ministries. 

In recent years, many incidents of violence toward animals have made the headlines, the latest one includes an incident in which seven dogs and seven cats died after they’ve eaten chicken mixed with poison. 

This past May, a man was fined for killing and eating stray kittens. Under the current laws, any act of violence, torture, and/or killing of a stray animal is punishable under “damage to commodities” and comes only with a lenient fine. Also in the past, courts have handed down light sentences with the only exception of a few exceptionally brutal cases.

The new definition of the law will automatically consider crimes like these on the same level as violence toward human beings and will carry a jail sentence. The jail sentence estimated for crimes against animals will be from six months up to four years, and also will avoid criminals getting out on bail or converting the prison sentence to a fine or community services. 

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The proposed legislation follows the Parliament’s creation of a new Animal Rights Legislative Commission created in May 2019. The Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Animal Rights Investigation Committee spent several months meeting with animal-rights activists, several nonprofit organizations, academics, experts, and many other people involved in animal rights and welfare for a more comprehensive and holistic approach to the matter. The committee has since then made its list of recommendations to the new legislation.

The recommendations also included banning and closing zoos, forbidding circus animals, horse-drawn carriages, dolphin parks, fur breeding farms, and pet stores, while restricting hunting and animal experimentation. However, the law also deals with animal companions such as cats and dogs and does not address the cruelty to farmed animals, including fish farms. 

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Many countries around the world have legislated different laws for animals who are considered companions. Last year, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture announced they will remove dogs from the “livestock” category to instead consider their companion animals. However, this change will largely affect the global dog and cat meat trade, which animal-rights organizations have been working to ban on Asian countries for decades. According to the Humane Society International, approximately 10 million dogs are killed for food annually in China. Recognizing that dogs are companions instead of “livestock” is the first step toward eliminating the consumption and trade in dog meat.

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