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PHOTO Activists Strip Down in Istanbul to Protest Fur

Two members of PETA hold banners during a protest in Istanbul’s busy Taksim Square.

DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINI?IK

Two female animal-rights activists clad in thin bodysuits painted with leopard spots drew crowds in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Monday morning as they braved the freezing weather to make a statement against wearing fur.

“We are hoping to show people in Turkey how animals suffer [in order for people to wear] their furs. Most people don’t know how animals are exploited – often poisoned, gassed and even skinned alive. But these animals feel just as we do,” said Ashley Bryne, one of the two activists and an American spokeswoman for the international organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

Her counterpart, Emily Lavender from Canada, carried a sign saying, “Only animals should wear fur,” as she shivered in the 3-degree-Celsius weather. “With our costumes, we represent all animals killed for their fur or skins – whether foxes, snakes, leopards or cows,” Lavender said.

The duo urged Istanbul residents to keep furs and animal-skin products out of their wardrobes, suggesting that “imitation” clothing would be a good alternative. Bryne and Lavender are currently touring various countries with their awareness-raising campaign.

“This is a tour of a couple weeks. We have been to Paris, Vienna and Istanbul and will go to Rome afterward,” said Bryne, who is supported by the Animal Rights Association of Turkey, or HAYTAP.

The chair of HAYTAP, lawyer Ahmet Kemal ?enpolat, participated in the Taksim Square demonstration with volunteers who support animal rights.

“If you wonder why PETA decided to organize such a demonstration, it was to draw the interest of the media more to animal rights,” ?enpolat said. “A protest was held about the [increased] tax on alcoholic beverages, but nobody showed up. We let the media know one hour ago, and look: There were more press members than animal-rights activists.”

HAYTAP member ?ebnem Arslan said wearing fur or exotic animal skins is increasingly seen as a status symbol among female members of Istanbul’s elite. “There is one thing these women don’t know: These animals are suffering while being killed,” Arslan said. “To take snakeskin, for example, they suffocate the animal by inflating it with water and scrape the skin off while it is still alive.”

Bilge Okay, an activist from the Association for Protecting Nature and Homeless Animals, or EHDKD, said wearing fur is a crime and people should stop torturing animals. “Although the [warm] weather doesn’t call for it, even women in Adana [a province in southern Turkey] wear fur,” said Okay.

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