Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The strays of Istanbul

I had the good fortune to spend new year 2017 in Kadiköy, in the Asian part of Turkey. It was amazing – the coffee, the exotic-sounding language, and the plaintive and incomparable call to prayer, ringing out every few hours from the mosques.

It was especially impressive hearing the Iman calling from Istanbul's fabulous Blue Mosque, which is quite magnificent, both inside and out, and it reminded me of the time I spent in Northern Cyprus some years ago.

Turkey was just as I expected and more besides. What I hadn't expected to find, here in Istanbul and Kadiköy, were the numerous stray cats and dogs who populate the streets, apparently living in harmony alongside the people of Turkey. There are a huge number of these animals – unwanted by some but not unloved, it seems – and a scheme has been implemented whereby strays are taken in by resuce centres; checked over, vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, neutered, tagged and then returned to the streets, where local people (and a great many tourists) ensure their day-to-day living is taken care of. It's quite common to see both dogs and cats sleeping peacefully on the floor inside shops, cafes, and bars, oblivious to the coming and going of customers. It is hoped that this regime will mean an eventual reduction in the number of strays, which should, in theory, be the case.

I was both heartened and humbled to experience how Turkey is trying to accommodate these animals (who are, by the way, beautiful, and very affectionate by nature), who have become strays through no fault of their own. Far, far preferable is this to America's kill policy so enthusiastically implemented ... it could learn a lesson from Turkey's example.

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