It is Time to Respect the Japanese People

(Associated Press)

I know all of you have been following the developing stories from Japan since the Earthquake and Tsunami devastated parts of the country on March 11, 2011.We can all be armchair activists. However, before you sign the petitions, before you denounce what is or is not being done, you need to be armed with the facts. This will allow you to understand what is actually going on in Japan.

On March 11, 2011, Japan didn’t face just one disaster; it faced three, which all occurred in one hour. Japan is the only country in the world with earthquake and tsunami advanced warning systems in place as well as evacuation plans. Plus, the construction codes in Japan are designed to ensure structures withstand very strong earthquakes. Therefore, countless people were saved by having such strong measures in place to warn their citizens and get them to safety.

Despite this, pre-March 11 knowledge about earthquakes could never have predicted the duration of the 8.9 Magnitude earthquake and certainly not the Tsunami that followed (it was not known that multiple fissures along a fault line could open each other). It was the tsunami that devastated the country, left people homeless, destroyed businesses, washed people out to sea, and damaged the nuclear power plant. Japan had to act as quickly as possible to address each of these disasters and all the death and destruction they caused.

Now we get to the part about the animals left behind in the Exclusion Zone through no fault of either the people or government. Various animal activist groups, demand that we all be armchair activists and insist through various communications that government appointed individuals risk their lives to go into the Exclusion Zone.

On the other hand The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is organizing a gathering of radiation and animal rescue experts from the United States and Japan on May 2nd – 3rd to discuss the current crisis and develop steps to provide aid to animals inside the evacuation zone.

Kinship Circle via their Facebook Page and Profile wants to motivate their followers to write multiple letters to the already overwhelmed Japanese government demanding that they immediately rescue animals contaminated with radiation even though there is no plan in place to quarantine and care for them. This seems to be in the view of some animal activists that rescuing the animals in the Exclusion Zone is a greater priority than the government’s trying to deal with the missing and dead among their citizens, getting food and supplies to those in Shelters, and rebuilding the country.

In these letters and all communication with the Japanese government, Kinship Circle seems to suggest in the following quote that you take a certain approach:

“When communicating with any Japanese authorities on the issue of animals in the exclusion zone — NEVER MENTION KINSHIP CIRCLE BY NAME. Doing so would severely limit, if not destroy, any chances of our volunteers freely rescuing animals trapped there. If Japanese authorities perceive animal rescuers as activists, they will be unwilling to work with them. Thank you for doing what is best for these animals. – Kinship Circle via their Facebook profile and fan page

The exclusion zone is there for a simple reason: radiation. The zone exists to protect humans and animals from further radiation exposure. When Kinship Circle was asked if they had plans in place to deal with the animals contaminated by radiation that they are demanding they be allowed to go in a rescue, their only response was and I quote “all in the works”. Which means they have been taking animals out of the zone without a plan in place to quarantine them and care for them when they do turn up positive for radiation? We know (through a news report in Japan) that two dogs that were in the Exclusion Zone peed radiation. If these two dogs were affected, it is certain many more were as well.

International Activists Groups admit they have been sneaking into the Exclusion Zone and hiding from the Japanese government in order to take animals out of the Exclusion Zone with and without owner’s permission. They have also been untethering animals and opening barn and stable doors without permission even if there are notes that animals at that location are being cared for.

As of 4/22/11 at 12:01am there are more stringent legal ramifications for Exclusion Zone trespassers; there are fines up to $1,200 (100,000 yen) and 30 days in jail. Now, suddenly, with tough fines in place these groups have now stopped to figure out how to come up with a way to quarantine the rescued animals? However, on 4/21/11 at 11:59pm they were taking these same animals out of the Exclusion Zone and bringing them to the general shelters. This endangered all the other animals as well as their caregivers through radiation contamination. What happens to these radiation contaminated animals? Who pays their medical bills or god forbid cares for the families of their care givers when they are sickened by radiation poisoning? These International Activist groups will be long gone to be the hero’s at another disaster asking their supporters to demand something else.

It doesn’t look as if anything is in place to handle the animals who turn up positive for radiation. It was known for weeks radiation was a problem. However, instead of focusing on ways to deal with this problem, it was considered more effective to ask armchair activists to persistently and vocally pressure the Japanese Government, who is dealing with multiple disasters to prosecute people who left their pets and livestock behind.

The people these petitions are calling to prosecute are the same people who have lost everything. These are the people who are mourning for lost family members and friends. These are people who are sick to their stomach about leaving their animals behind but have few other options because they are living in evacuation shelters, their businesses destroyed, and their homes in ruins. We can complain that animals should be allowed in shelters with their people; however, there isn’t enough room for the people. The sanitary conditions inside the shelters are deteriorating and in some locations food is still hard to come by. Like most of you, I also wish that more evacuation shelters allowed animals or had a special room for them. Once again, maybe if just one disaster had struck on March 11, 2011, the authorities could have bent the rules, but with so many homeless people, their first thought has to be for their citizens.

Some of these citizens are Japanese farmers, whose cows, horses, chickens, and pigs are starving and facing death. However, these farmers, through use of courtesy and respect, have had more success advocating for the welfare of their animals than animal activist groups through mobilizing their armchair activists.

“Following a strong local request to allow people to move their livestock out of the evacuation area, the government is making arrangements to conduct blanket testing of cows and other domestic animals.”  These farmers may offer a model for effective action – calm words and respect.

Maybe we can use calm respect to try to understand Japanese culture and their way of business rather than just imposing our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Already much shame and loss of face has been brought on government officials and the people of Japan not only from the loss of life but through the Nuclear Disaster. It is time we allow them to begin to heal and ask the Japanese how WE can most effectively help THEM.

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  1. Thank you, Felissa, for a reasoned response to the online hysteria being encouraged by North American activist machines who will soon be gone with whatever donations they can siphon off this tragedy.

  2. Very wise words. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Something CAN be done for the animals in the exclusion zone. sealing them in to starve to death is immoral. The government needs to be pressured to not continue with this behavior and to do something immediately. they are causing more suffering not arm chair activists – like yourself by the way.

  4. Excellent article, Felissa. I've seen so much out-of-control, arrogant behavior online since the events of March 11 in Japan. It's hard to believe people are capable of such complete lack of disrespect for anyone. I appreciate your evenhanded approach to this issue. Thanks for being a voice of reason and compassion.

  5. Well said Felissa … this is a very complex situation and ranting at the over stretched government will help no one. They are coping amazingly with this national tragedy. Thank you for your understanding words x

  6. The truth prevails. TQ for the information. 🙂 Am sharing this.

  7. Thank you for this post Felissa. It is definitely a complicated situation. News from so many places, all with different views and not enough information or plans by the government there adding to the speculations.
    I spoke to some friends in Tokyo, and they say that the media here is just making a big hype out of everything and that everything is totally normal on tokyo. This leads me to the believe that the problems with the exclusion zone and shelter are not reaching other cities and hence, affecting the amount of help that can be offered. This a small set i spoke to, so again it is not necessarily a complete picture.
    Thanks for putting in an effort to bring out so many issues and efforts.

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