Activists applaud pledge to end horse abuse on Istanbul's islands

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

Abuse of horses used in carriages popular among tourists in Istanbul's Princes' Islands will come to an end, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in an Istanbul rally on Sunday. Animal rights activists, who have been campaigning to end the use of horse-drawn carriages citing abuses, welcomed the news.

Activists claim that dozens of horses die every year on the islands due to horse carriage owners forcing them to carry heavy loads without breaks for long hours. They claim that most of the horses brought to the islands are either old or crippled race or utility horses. They propose the use of electric or motor carriages to replace the horses.

President Erdoğan said they took "necessary steps" after seeing "images of abused horses." "We are working to free them from their reins. We will have a very different approach in [amending] Law 5119," he said, referring to a law about animal protection.

Animal rights activists have recently vented their anger on the transportation of 209 more horses to the three islands off Istanbul's coast, despite a quarantine following the reports of a disease affecting the animals, and called upon investigation into the matter.

Kemal Şenpolat, head of the non-profit Animal Rights Federation (HAYTAP) told Anadolu Agency (AA) that using horse-drawn carriages should be banned not only on the islands but all across Turkey. Carriages, locally known as "fayton" are used to transport tourists on weekend excursions to the hills of the islands. "It is an outdated mode of travel," he said. "Turkey used to have well-mannered carriage drivers in the past; these days drivers are not treating horses well," Şenpolat said. He noted that electric or solar-powered carriages are being used in some places including the Cappadocia region of central Turkey and in the southern city of Adana. "But drivers on the islands are resisting this idea. There are nearly 1,000 horses on the islands but there is no clinic or hospital to take care of the animals. Every year, up to 300 horses die due to abuse," Şenpolat said. He also claimed carcasses of horses were dumped into the sea. "We thank the president for saying no to the use of horses," Şenpolat stated. Okan Oflaz, who heads the non-profit Association for Protection and Rescue of Beasts of Burden, told AA horses suffering from broken legs were put to sleep instead of treatment. He said there has been a quarantine on the islands due to cases of glanders among horses but the animals were transported anyway. He said they have long been campaigning to end cruelty against horses and he expected the practice to end after the president's remarks. Nesrin Çıtırık, head of Confederation of Animal Rights (HAYKONFED) said they called upon the president and the state to order an investigation into the "scandal," of transportation of 209 horses last week to the islands and said the animals were left starving. Çıtırık said residents of the islands also complained about the abuse of animals but did not air their grievances as they were "afraid of reaction from carriage owners." "The state should first provide safety to animal rights activists and then organize negotiations between carriage owners and non-profit groups specialized on animal rights," she said.

Barış Şengün, head of the non-profit Empathy Platform, told AA that President Erdoğan's remarks made them happy. "We expect him to fulfill this pledge. It is a move inducing hope. We hope it will be put into action and we are assured that he would fulfill this promise once he is elected [on June 24 elections]," Şengün said. He noted that they held talks with the head of an association of horse carriage owners for the first time this year to raise the living quality for horses.

Authorities have already pledged tougher sentences for the abuse of animals. Veysel Eroğlu, Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs whose portfolio includes protection of animals, said in a written statement yesterday that the torture, killing and rape of animals will be punishable with prison sentences after a bill before the parliament is approved, after the opening of the parliament following summer recess

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