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Politicians in Turkey set aside differences to enact revolutionary animal rights law

Ali Öztunç: Rights are not given, they are taken. Our animal friends have inherent rights, like us, and their rights are currently being violated by us humans.

NURBANU KIZIL: Rights are not given, they are taken. But the politicians, animal rights activists and animal lovers in Turkey agree that this is not the case for animals, who cannot speak up to defend their rights and their protection depends on the prerogative and mercy of others. There could be a light at the end of the tunnel as the country’s political parties have put aside their differences and may soon enact a new law to tackle the country’s animal rights problem by revamping existing laws to impose stricter punishment for offenders. The law is up next on Parliament’s agenda following the budget debates, according to lawmakers.

“Our animal friends have inherent rights, like us, and their rights are currently being violated by us humans,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kahramanmaraş deputy Ali Öztunç told Daily Sabah, adding that it is necessary for all politicians to fight against the massacre, extinction, torture and maltreatment of animals, as well as their economic exploitation and the destruction of their habitats. Highlighting that the draft has been prepared in cooperation with all political parties in the Turkish Parliament, the main opposition lawmaker noted that the most important feature of the law is the fact that it criminalizes violence against animals, replacing the treatment of animals like commodities rather than living beings…

The issue of animal rights has been on the agenda of the Turkish government in the past decade, as there has been immense public pressure from all circles of life on politicians to come up with a solution. Footage of torture and cruelty against animals has made headlines several times, outraging the public and animal rights organizations. All political parties – including the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Good Party (IP) – are working to update the country’s existing law, which has been criticized for lacking necessary measures to ensure the protection of animals…

After over a decade of discussions, two drafts have been prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization and Parliament’s Animal Rights Research Commission, which will finally define animals as living beings instead of “commodities,” to allow tougher punishment and deter exploitation and violence. By defining animals as living beings, the law will allow courts to treat crimes against animals on the same level as violence against humans, replacing the existing definition which sets offenders free with fines…

“We need to recognize the rights of animals, ensure their rights are actively protected and identify the mechanisms that can be contacted during times of violations,” he said, adding that the draft is promising as it criminalizes violence against animals and proposes deterring punishment measures. Meanwhile, the opposition politician called on Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop to bring the draft to the Parliament to vote it into law. “Mr. Şentop, please, hear our calls and take action so we can enact this law with consensus,” he added…

Although Turkish people are historically known for their compassion and care for animals, incidents of torture and cruelty targeting strays and others and the lack of deterring punishment have outraged activists and animal lovers… AK Party Istanbul deputy Rümeysa Kadak,… who is the youngest lawmaker in the Turkish Parliament, continued by saying that the widespread use of social media in the country greatly contributes to transparency with regard to the crimes committed against animals. “Social media has allowed us to listen to countless numbers of animal lovers and listen to their views about the law. We need to take everyone’s opinion and carry out work to address existing criticism,” Kadak said…

Kadak, an ambitious animal lover who frequently visits shelters and is actively involved in promoting animal rights, says the time has come as there is consensus among politicians, the public and activists to pass the law. Highlighting that she has received positive feedback about the commission report from animal lovers and activists, who are eagerly waiting for a law proposal in the General Assembly. The young lawmaker expressed confidence that the proposal would make it right after the budget debates, which are expected to end on Dec. 18. “And after that, we expect the animal rights law to be the first thing on our agenda,” she said. SOURCE…

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