Farm Animal Welfare and Slaughterhouses Discussed in Parliament
It was Mr. Keiji Horikoshi, a monk, and a member of the House of Representatives, who raised the issue of animal welfare in slaughterhouses, which had not been included in the original discussions of this group.
The Environmental Committee had been long held off during the extraordinary diet session.
On Dec 5th 2017, the committee finally took place where Mr. Horikoshi from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan chose animal welfare issues as his first question.
“… especially, there is a belief where Buddha exists in every single thing, including mountains, grass, trees, and rivers in relation to importance of lives, which is called “Sansensoumokushikkaijoubutsu.” This is to say, we, humans and animals that have lives, are all equal. So today, I am going to ask questions about animal welfare from this point of view.”
This was how he started his question.
He, then, went on to point out the exclusion of livestock animals in the animal handling businesses of the current animal welfare act.
He also shared the sense of urgency about Japan being so behind in animal welfare issues while the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are coming around the corner in 2020.
The standards of procurement for athletes villages and venues of the Olympics and Paralympics have been created.
The standards are based upon “Animal Welfare and livestock animal production systems,” which are lower than the codes of animal welfare set by the OIE.
He asked if the standards are good enough from a global standpoint.
The response from Mr. Nakagawa, the Minister of the Environment, was nothing new. That is, the ministry will work with other relevant ministries, in order to raise awareness, and spread the Standards on Caring For and Keeping Livestock Animals.
There have been, however, few cases where the Ministry of the Environment or the animal welfare legislation in municipalities did much for animal welfare issues about livestock animals in the past. And yet, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, who are the relevant ministries, always claim that the Ministry of the Environment is the one that is responsible for animal welfare issues for livestock animals.
The Ministry of the Environment should raise the bar for animal welfare to monitor abusive methods to raise livestock animals.
We hope this will instigate a discussion about how to include livestock animals in the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals.
You can watch the broadcast of Diet discussion here:
The followings are rough minutes of the session
I have worked as an occupational therapist, so I have experience in the medical field.
I also wear another hat, which is being a monk.
Since I became a bonze, I have been preaching about how to live as a human being andwhat happiness means. Especially, there is a belief where Buddha exists in every single thing, including mountains, grass, trees, and rivers, in relation to the importance of
their lives, which is called “Sansensoumokushikkaijoubutsu.”
This is to say, we, humans and animal that have lives, are all equal.
So today, I am going to ask questions about animal welfare from this point of view.
Through the process of improving the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals, we have regulated animal handling businesses, added a penalty for animal abuse and abandonment, and included consideration towards experimental animals.
Overall, it appears as though animal welfare has progressed in Japan.
However, it doesn’t account for livestock animals. For that matter, Japan is far behind among developed countries.
There are laws and guidelines in regards to animal welfare in Japan, and yet, they are not enforced at all.
The livestock industry is excluded by animal handling businesses defined in the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals. The act does not have a separate section for livestock animals, either.
There is an effort to promote animal welfare for livestock animals through guidelines of Animal Welfare and livestock animal production systems set by the Japan Livestock Technology Association, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The guidelines, however, have no teeth.
These guidelines are less strict than the codes of animal welfare set by an international organization, OIE, whose mission is to improve animal welfare in the world.
In addition, slaughterhouses are regulated under the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. So no animal welfare is present in the slaughterhouses in this country.
Why is Japan behind compare to the EU?
One of the reasons can be that Japan has been conventionally a country where livestock products are imported, not exported. So we are not exposed to awareness of animal welfare issues, which are rising in Europe and the US.
I’m afraid that this lack of understanding will be a big problem in the near future because the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 take great consideration into animal welfare for the foods prepared for athletes, in addition to the sustainability.
In other words, management to raise livestock animals should consider comfort, and the aspect of animal welfare must be included in the process of producing such livestock animals.
The guidelines of the management, though, are reliant on the one set by the Japan Livestock Technology Association, as I mentioned earlier. So whether or not these guidelines are met by global standards will be asked.
I assume there will be a lot of top athletes who are concerned with food.
Additionally, getting nutrition from foods that were raised in a way animal welfare was taken into account is becoming a common consideration for these athletes.
Therefore, our country needs to start taking actions in such a direction.
I hope we will create a domestic distribution channel for livestock products along with animal welfare standards that meet codes set by the OIE. That way, there will be an opportunity for us to export these products overseas with confidence as well.
We must assure dignity of lives, as it is just essential.
In doing so, we can say Japan is truly a developed country.
Mahatma Gandhi who led India to independence, once said, "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
So let me ask you, Minister of the Environment, Mr. Nakagawa.
In developed countries, especially the EU, the idea of welfare for livestock animals is ingrained, compared to Japan. Some countries even regulate how to raise and manage, transport, and slaughter livestock animals.
I would like to ask the perspectives of the Ministry of Environment on the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals in relation to livestock animals, in addition to our current efforts on animal welfare issues for livestock animals.
Also, how would you like to go about revisiting the current animal welfare act, which takes place next year?
Mr. Nakagawa, Minister of the Environment:
The principles to set the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals are based on the ideas that necessary management only should be made in order to maintain animals’ health but it should not be done in a way that hinders the purpose, which is to raise these animals (for food). The species and their natural behaviors must be taken into account in order to secure the environment to raise animals.
In the act, it’s encouraged for people who raise animals to keep animals’ health and safety as part of their responsibility.
With that said, the Ministry of Environment makes content for the standards in terms of hygiene management and ensuring safety that must be followed by persons in charge to secure proper handling for livestock animals.
We will make a continuous effort to promote such activities by working together with relevant ministries.
As for the Act, till now, the changes have been made by members of the government assembly.
I was a member of the association of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is comprised of the Liberal Democratic party and the Komeito party.
There is also a bipartisan association that focuses on animal welfare.
With these, the revisit will take place by having a series of discussions.
The Act on Welfare and Management of Animals has been dealt by the government assembly, and the Ministry of Environment will give close attention to the discussions between the parties.
Thank you for your answers.
The foods used for the Olympics and Paralympics will be a small amount compared to what the nation consumes.
However, I understand Japanese citizens also have been raising awareness of animal welfare issues due to health consciousness as well as the love towards their pets.
Also, the reality of transportation and slaughterhouses are available to Japanese citizens because of the Internet.
So, I hope Japan will make great efforts on animal welfare that meets the standards of the EU or the OIE.
I’m also a member of the association, so I will be discussing these issues as well.
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