News Analysis

Thursday 28 August 2014

From Istanbul to Irish cock and bull animal welfare

Published 14/10/2012 | 05:00

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Napoleon said that if the world was a single state, Istanbul would be the capital. A few weeks ago, I took a holiday in it.

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A population of over 13 million makes this global city one of the largest in the world. I know how sardines in a tin feel after the sweltering tram ride into the old city to see the sights, particularly the Haghia Sophia.

I'm not a big fan of having to cover my head while my boyfriend's unruly mop remains unfettered, so I only skimmed the Blue Mosque. We took a ferry along the Bosphorus, which divides Europe from Asia, before returning to Galata.

This former Jewish quarter on the other side of The Golden Horn is a hilly labyrinth of busy cobblestone streets and decaying baroque splendour. You'll find working synagogues and churches here, and plenty of women in western clothes.

You'll also find homeless animals. One old mutt in particular pulled on my heartstrings, with his tragic, black-smudged eyes. But everywhere you looked, the locals were feeding these orphans.

On Saturday evening, we ventured down Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul's supersized version of Dublin's Grafton Street. Throngs of young Turks and old guns alike were window-shopping. A lively march for gender equality was also under way.

Turkey's secularism is unique among Muslim countries in the region, and its citizens clearly value their relative freedom. Police were visible but relaxed, as I found out the following afternoon.

We had ventured back up this high street and encountered a huge demon-stration. The atmosphere was electric. Armed police hovered in a nearby side street. I approached the captain and asked him what was going on. He explained, in good English, that it was a march against unpopular proposed changes to one of Turkey's animal welfare laws. He added that he supported the protest.

About 10,000 people marched that day to stand up for the rights of their four-legged fellow creatures. Demonstrations also took place in 13 other cities across Turkey. The Animal Welfare Draft was expected to be among the first pieces of legislation discussed by parliament when it opened just before I left.

Meanwhile, at home in Ireland, a few politicians valiantly preach to mostly empty seats in the Dail about the many glaring discrepancies in the long overdue Animal Health and Welfare Bill.

Disgracefully, it still allows fox hunting, hare coursing, fur farming and other cruelties to continue. Yet not one political party here seems to care. Someone's interests are being protected. And it sure isn't the animals.

From Istanbul to Irish cock and bull, our attitude to animal welfare is no Turkish delight.

Sunday Independent

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