If you follow the often complicated battles over animal rights and animal welfare issues, you’re likely fatigued with how frequently the debates are swamped by cross-currents of competing interests.
The conflict among industry interests over the (alleged) alliance between the United Egg Producers and the HSUS is a perfect example. Is it capitulation for the trade group representing egg producers to agree to a compromise with the well-funded activists determined to impose bans on cages, molting and other standard practices? Or is it simply a strategic maneuver on the part of both sides to minimize potential losses and marshal their resources for other initiatives deemed more important in the long term?
It’s possible to support either view—and plenty of people in the business have done exactly that—and make a strong argument for the utility of either perspective.
Likewise, the fight over phasing out gestation stalls—or “maternity pens,” if you enjoy euphemisms—while finding more and more processors and operators boarding that bus, has drawn a bright line that many well-respected industry authorities are determined not to cross.
Or how about the use of low-level animal antibiotics? Should the practice be banned? More tightly regulated? Or allowed to continue as is without additional restrictions? And is the marketing of antibiotic-free meat products a help or hindrance to the industry’s long-term viability?
Well-meaning people can—and do—disagree on these and other issues that comprise the animal activist agenda.
But if that seems complicated, perhaps a dispatch from overseas might put a different spin on those struggles.
This news comes from Turkey, which I would argue is one of the least understood countries we Americans encounter in our increasingly casual exposure to foreign news stories.
For one, although it is a strongly Muslim country, Turkey in fact has been a representative democracy for going on a century now, with an elected president, prime minister and parliament. Its population of more than 75 million people occupies a geo-politically important country that is bigger than Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Switzerland, Portugal and Sicily combined. One of the founders of the United Nations, Turkey is a NATO member, one of the G-20 countries that comprise the world’s leading economic powers and is in the final stages of being admitted to the European Union.
In other words, although some people might assume that Turkey is no different from Iran or Syria or even Saudi Arabia, it is far more Western than nearly all of its neighbors.
Thus, it’s no surprise that Turkey faces ongoing squabbles initiated by a domestic animal rights faction that, although it’s not as visible or well-endowed as its American counterparts, nevertheless manages to squawk about AR issues with a similar ferocity.
Only there, the debate seems even more convoluted.
For example: An amendment to the proposed Animal Protection Law would make bestiality, only considered a misdemeanor in Turkey, punishable by jail time. According to a report in the Hürriyet Daily News, the law would also increase fines for crimes committed against animals, limit the number of animals allowed as pets in a private residence and mandate that stray animals be vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
All that seems plausible.I doubt if any American animal rights types would object to any of it.
Animal rights activists in Turkey, however, quickly expressed concerns about the amendment and are preparing to fight it, claiming that the new regulation would lead to the mass killing of cats and dogs, regardless of whether they’re pets or strays.
“The law foresees the punitive containment of animal abusers, which animal rights activists have long demanded to protect stray animals from rape and torture,” said Hülya Yalçın, who chairs the animal rights commission of the Istanbul Bar Association. “[But] whoever says ‘yes’ to this law is a murderer. The new law was supposed to protect animals, but instead it plans to cut down on the animals people would like to keep in their houses [and] foresees that no animal should be allowed on the streets.”
In this country, animal activists routinely line up behind “puppy mill” laws that restrict dog- and cat-breeding operations in private houses. It seems that there’s another layer of complications in Turkey, however.
There, according to the proposed new law, strays would be collected, vaccinated and fixed—but then they’d be taken to “remote corners of the city to live in deserted areas,”referred to as “natural parks.”
“I don’t know where these parks are,” Yalçın said, “and I don’t know how we will be able to monitor the animals’ welfare there.”
At first blush, I tend to agree. Shipping stray cats and dogs off to a “natural park” where they forage for their food, I guess? Seems a little far afield, so to speak.
But who am I to question the integrity (or strategy) of dedicated animal rightists?
I don’t want to be on the wrong side of any animal-related issues, but with the way these debates twist and turn, what’s right now might be all wrong tomorrow.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.