Turkish parliament approves animal rights bill amid protests over its scope

Turkey's parliament on July 9 passed a law that defines animal beings as "living beings" and makes animal abuse a crime punishable between six months and four years in prison. However, activists find the law's scope insufficient, pointing out that the sentences less than two years are usually deferred, meaning the perpetrators might avoid jail time despite horrendous acts.  

Duvar English

Turkey’s parliament early on July 9 approved a bill on animal rights. According to the new legislation, animals will no longer be classified as commodities, therefore making jail time possible for the perpetrators.

The old bill's definition of animals had made it possible for perpetrators to get away with an administration fine.

According to the new bill, the sale of cats and dogs by pet shops will be banned.

There will be catalogs of cats and dogs at the petshops and the animals will be handed to their new owners from lawfully designated places under the authority of the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry. The implementation will go into effect one year later.

The law also foresees the prohibition of animal circuses, water circuses and dolphin parks.

NGOs and activists however have been protesting the scope of the new law, saying it overlooks many issues.

Defining the new legislation as a “law of massacre,” the Animal Protection, Rescue and Survival Association (HAYKURDER) said that it will file a lawsuit at the Constitutional Court for the cancellation of some of the articles. “It went down in history as a black stain. We will not forget it. We will not forgive it,” it tweeted on July 9.

The association has been demanding that the sale of all animals in pet shops should be banned, regardless of their species. It has been also calling on authorities to close down zoos and declare all hunting activities as illegal.

According to the new law, associations will no longer be allowed to file a criminal complaint against animal abusers, but instead be required to make an official application to the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, which will decide on the matter. Activists have been protesting this, saying prosecutors should be able to launch an investigation without the interference of the ministry, which will prolong the process. 

Activists have been also pointing out that the revised regulation still makes it possible for perpetrators to avoid jail time as the judges usually defer prison sentences less than two years.

The revised law seeks a jail term of between six months and four years in jail for animal cruelty.

“In the old law, there was an administrative fine for those abusing animals, and the new law makes it seem as if there is jail time,” said Alper Karmış, the head of PADER, an organization working for bettering the lives of stray animals in Turkey.

“Since the lower limit of the sentence is very low and due to prisoner release law, perpetrators will not be jailed. Maybe if an abuse case causes a great uproar among society, then maybe they will be jailed, to calm down the public,” he told İleri Haber on July 8.

Several NGOs are preparing to hold a demonstration at the capital Ankara on July 11 in front of the Ulus Atatürk Statue to protest the new law.