Struggle for Animal Rights in Turkey Conditions
There is exploitation wherever we turn our heads, but we still have not been able to convince a significant part of the society about the right to life of cats and dogs. That is why we do not have the luxury of stopping and despairing. In the environment we live in, wherever you feel, on whatever subject, animals are going through something worse.
Violations of rights, the right to life of some living things, and problems in terms of access to justice exist all over the world. We feel them a little stronger in the country we live in. The struggle for rights turns into a lifestyle, because otherwise it is not possible to survive. The moment we pause for a moment and allow the domination that is wanted to be established over us, the dose of oppression increases. Both humans and animals are affected by this pressure. Those who have the power do not hesitate to destroy what they can for their own benefit.
But is the dose of this cruelty the same for humans and animals? Does the struggle continue in the same way for both? At this point, we need to mention a few topics.
It may be useful, useless, applicable, not applicable, but there is a fundamental difference in terms of legal status. The child or adult human species can rely on a written text that guarantees the right to life. International conventions, the Constitution and laws also include this. In terms of animals, we do not have such a text. Do not think of the struggle for animal rights as today, as this period has begun. Before the Animal Protection Law came into effect in 2004, it was a vastly different struggle. After the law came into force in 2004, even though the law had many shortcomings, it added a different tool to the struggle. The law changed in 2021. It still has many shortcomings, but it has given us new tools, albeit a little, but the laws on animals did not say, ‘all animals have the right to life’, it still does not say. The things we define as tools only work for cats and dogs. When we say deer, we come across the huge Hunting Law. Animals in slaughterhouses, experiments, and zoos are not protected under the Animal Protection Law. The point we want to underline is this: For most of the animals, methods such as public awareness activities for cats and dogs, street protests, similar to the struggle made before 2004, still continue.
On the one hand, victims of other rights struggles are perpetrators in terms of animal rights struggles. Eating animals, wearing animals, using materials tested on animals have become the norm of human life. Such normalized systematic violations exist only in the struggle for animal rights. On the other hand, there is also the point of view of those involved in the struggle for human rights that they find the struggle for animal rights unnecessary when human rights violations are so intense.
Third, there is a general perception of society that sees human life as superior. A perception of society that accepts the death of an animal as normal and right for the sake of man. It is not easy to break it either. From the moment we are born, this is imposed both within the family and in every social environment we are in. It is not easy to break free of these truths. We were not even aware of it up to a point. From the moment we realize it, we try to change ourselves. That is why we see animals as the lowest link in the chain of exploitation. There is exploitation wherever we turn our heads, but we still have not been able to convince a significant part of the society about the right to life of cats and dogs. That is why we do not have the luxury of stopping and despairing. In the environment we live in, where you feel about whatever subject, animals are going through worse. We are not able to look into their faces as we have accomplished nothing. At least we must fight relentlessly.
When this is the general framework of animal rights, we also need to develop strategies for violations that are considered legal in the fight.
We are talking about titles such as hunting, slaughterhouses, experiments. The fight against these issues goes both ways. First of all, we need to be conscious and raise awareness. We need to get the general public to call them murders. A top-down law does not come into existence until society is ready. The reaction of the society about cats and dogs was comparatively high, and in 2004 the Animal Protection Law was enacted. The persecution of phaetons in Istanbul Islands came to an end with the vigil of life, as the voice of riding a phaeton started to get louder in the community recently. It takes a long time, but the effort pays off. We must not give up on this leg of the struggle.
On the other hand, we need to chase the legal loopholes of these legal killings. Because practitioners generally do not even feel the need to abide by the legal rules of murder. By using these vulnerabilities, we need to disrupt the practitioner’s work and put him in a difficult position. The closest and best example in this regard is hunting tourism auctions. For two years, non-governmental organizations and bar associations have seriously focused on this issue, and this focus has positive results. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the chief organizer of the murder, does not even deign to comply with the murder rules set by the legislator. This short-sightedness of the Ministry of course opens up a key area for us. By using these violations of the law, we have the chance to press the Ministry through the judiciary, disrupt its work, and most importantly, save the animals it wants to kill.
Another example is about experiments. One non-governmental organization member working in the field of animal protection should be elected to the Hayvan Deneyleri Merkezi Etik Kurulu (Animal Experiments Center Ethics Committee – HADMEK), but they filled this quota with the Laboratuvar Hayvanları Bilimi Derneği (Laboratory Animal Science Association), which produces animals to be used in experiments, as if making fun of it. This transaction was canceled with the lawsuit filed by Burak Özgüner. This was a good example of struggle, but the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has now started to seek to change the regulation in order not to implement the court decision.
In some cases, we may need to intervene directly in order to save the animal. In such cases, we may have to harm the property or people, which is the cause of the animal’s plight. Such interventions should be considered as a legitimate defense or a state of necessity, but of course, there is no guarantee that it will be viewed this way in our legal system. Therefore, in such situations, we should be able to take risks to save the animal.
While we continue to struggle in this way with the state wing, we also have to deal with the problems that arise from within ourselves. Since the subject is animals and animals do not have the opportunity to make a sound or disclose what is done, most people see this medium as a space for enrichment, making their name heard, and being present. By using animals and people who are sensitive about animals, they provide themselves with material and moral benefits. These insincerity and bad intentions of these people harm our firm stance against the state. We can say this very clearly: These two-faced people are far more dangerous than people who openly describe themselves as ‘animal haters’.
Yet another problem we have in the community: People forget the purpose of their existence for the struggle after a point and start to focus on themselves. In the work done for animals, in the steps taken, rather than evaluating whether the result is good for the animals or not, they busy themselves with who does the work, tries to put themselves forward, and in the continuation of this point of view, it comes to the point of underestimating and trivializing each other’s struggles.
While we deal with ourselves and each other in the community in this way, animals continue to suffer the most serious violations. That is why we should all be aware of the seriousness of the danger and learn to fight only for the welfare of animals, without taking our focus off the animal. As long as we do not do this and maintain our weak image, we can go back 30 years in the struggle with a circular or a news reflected in the press.