Turkish authorities have slapped a man with a fine for torturing a fish, in a ruling animal rights activists said would set a precedent.
The suspect, identified with his initials as B.S., is a fisherman in Erdek, a western town on the shores of the Marmara Sea. He recently shared on social media footage of a thresher shark he had caught. The video showed B.S. punching and kicking the animal before releasing it back into the sea. The footage sparked an outcry on social media.
Animal rights defenders flooded a presidential communications center with complaints about the footage and contacted the local gendarme and fisheries authority. The authorities located B.S. and slapped him with a fine of TL 773 under the Animal Protection Law.
Thresher sharks, which can weigh up to 700 kilograms and grow about 4 meters long, are a vulnerable species with a decreasing population.
In a statement on the incident, Turkish Maritime Research Foundation (TUDAV) said the fine for the torturing of shark, which was captured by fishermen last month, was probably first under Turkish law but cautioned that laws were still inadequate to prevent such incidents as fines were far from deterring violence towards animals.
Laws still treat animals as a "commodity" rather than living beings and crimes against them, from "deliberate mistreatment, torture, forcing animals to starve, neglecting their care" is punishable with fines.
Animal rights have been a contentious issue in Turkey and activists complained about the lack of better protection of animals, especially in the light of a string of cases involving violence against animals.
A parliamentary committee on animal rights, meanwhile, still debate how best to improve the lives of animals and seeks enactment of a comprehensive animal rights law by the end of this year. The committee would recommend a minimum prison term of two years and one month for those convicted of torturing, mistreating all animals, regardless of their ownership.