Japan’s Heavy Hearted Farmers

A lot of people have been spending way too much time degrading the farmers who were forced to flee their farms in the Exclusion Zone in Japan. Finger pointing, demands, going so far as to petition the government to created a law to prosecute them for leaving their animals behind. Yes if the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disasters had not happened I would absolutely agree that a person who just left their farm behind because they wanted time away or who knows what should be prosecuted. This is a completely different situation and there are so many factors to consider in the equation including that people are not allowed in and out of the Exclusion Zone under government order. No, I don’t think the government should be held responsible for their death because their first responsibility is to the people even if these are living, breathing, feeling animals.

But there is a bigger picture that of what the farmers have to say about what is going on and what they are trying to do. Those who can go back and still have use of their vehicle can go to the grainery outside of the district and pick up food for their animals. They then make the trip into the Exclusion zone can spend no more then a few hours on their farms to get an entire days work done before they have been exposed to 5 times the yearly limit of radiation. The few hours is not enough time to hand feed the young calves that were born right before or right after the disaster and so they are starving and dying and they are devastated having to choose between feeding the adults and the babies. The choice is heartbreaking feeding the large group or the few babies. Though in reality many farmers know that they have only paid up for grain for another few weeks anyway and have no way to pay for more because no income has come into the farm since March and its not like they can get a loan on a farm where all the animals and land are in the No Go Zone. 

They have been told they can’t even bury the dead animals from their farms because they were exposed to too much radiation so they can’t even kill the animals to end their suffering because it means they have to lay the bodies out exposed. The farmers understand that they will probably not be able to sell their cattle or the milk from them in order to raise money to buy feed even for a few. They know the harsh truth is that they will most likely be slaughtered by government officials or under orders from the government. In Chernobyl the animals in the no go zone were buried in one giant grave which will probably eventually happen in Fukushima.

Hiruta is a third-generation farmer who owns 130 Holstein cattle in the town of Naraha, 14 kilometers south of the plant. “These cows are like family. I owe my life to them. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t accept this situation,”

“When I enter the shed the cows start mooing. At times they sound like cries for help, at others as if they were saying how much they had waited for me. You have to hear them to understand,” he added. “Before I leave them for the day I tell myself that this may be the last time I see them alive, and I take my cap off and bow. I think the cows understand me. Once, they all fell silent as I bowed. It was very strange.”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    That is both heartbreaking and heartwarming to read of his thoughts. The farm animals are on borrowed time if they are drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food and breathing contaminated air. The kindness being shown in feeding them until the ultimate end of their lives is touching. No one has a right to complain about the hard choices these farmers are having to make. Linda

  2. Felissa, thank you for this sensitive perspective. These farmers suffer, facing the inevitable, doing the best they can and risking their own health in the meantime.

    “Before I leave them for the day I tell myself that this may be the last time I see them alive, and I take my cap off and bow. I think the cows understand me. Once, they all fell silent as I bowed.”


  3. I think people often don't understand what farming is like for the people that do it. Years ago there was a devastating flood in my area, which is home to a lot of dairy farms. Hundreds of cows were lost; many farmers, who had fled for their lives with their families, minutes ahead of the rising water, returned home to barnyards full of dead cows. These were animals they had for the most part raised from babies, creatures they considered part of their lives. An acquaintance of mine said the only time in her life she'd ever seen her father cry was when they went home. He stood there looking at his cows, all crowded around the barn door, as though they had died still waiting hopefully for him to let them in.

    May these farmers find peace as they care for their doomed animals.

  4. Prayers for all the affected Farmers and Animals. They did not choose to be in such a situation. When I read about how the farmers feel (owe his life to the cows) about the cows…I feel the same. It takes one animal lover (any animal) to know another. Share their pain…pray for them. TQ for sharing this post. :o)

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