Turkey's first animal rights political party, the Animal Party, was established this week in an effort to bring the issue of the protection of animal's rights and welfare to the political table.
Speaking in an interview with the online news site Bianet last week, party member Neslihan Demir said the aim of the party was not just to promote love for animals but to remind those who view the world solely in terms of humans that we live together with animals and that they have rights, too.
Demir said that over the years many countries have taken steps to establish political parties to protect the welfare of animals and bring their rights onto the political agenda. “The Dutch political party ‘Party for the Animals' currently holds two seats in the Dutch parliament, but realistically we are not aiming to be represented in Parliament, however, we do hope to work together and have a say in the new constitution,” Demir said.
The Party for the Animals was established in Holland by Marianne Thieme in 2002 and currently holds two of the 150 seats in the country's House of Representatives and one of the 75 seats in the Senate.
Demir said the members of the new party are aware that they face an uphill battle with regard to convincing many of the need for such a party but noted that honoring the rights of animals has historically been viewed as important in Turkey.
“There are always those who are cynical and say ‘First look to protect the rights of humans, then animals.' However in the past it wasn't like this,” she said, adding that during the Ottoman era in Turkey there were laws and mandates relating to the protection of horses and donkeys used for pulling carts and carriages as well as efforts to care for birds, cats and dogs.
Demir said the group is against hunting, pet shops and the use of fireworks, which are not only dangerous for birds but also for other animals who become startled and disorientated by explosions. “In effect we want to end the perception that animals are goods and property to be abused and used as people please,” Demir said, adding that the group supported the work of Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Melda Onur, who has been pushing for the law to be changed on punishment for those who abuse animals.
Demir said in order to become a member of the party you don't have to have a pet living in your house or feel obliged to feed cats on the street or pet every dog you see. “All the Animal Party wants is for those who see mankind as the only living beings that matter to open their eyes and revise their perceptions,” she said.
The Animal Party's first meeting is to take place in the form of a conference on dogs on March 24. The conference will be addressing a number of topics, including dogs in urban environments, the place of dogs in history and dogs in Islam. The conference will take place at Şehir University and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.