The Hachiko Coalition Calls for Immediate Evacuation of Animals Inside Japan’s Nuclear Exclusion Zone
SAN FRANCISCO, May 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Hachiko Coalition is calling for the organized and immediate evacuation of all uncontaminated domestic animals, pets and livestock inside the 20km radiation contaminated exclusion zone Fukushima, Japan.
The Hachiko Coalition has also published a rush translation of a report previously available only in Japanese. A special committee issued this report after their landmark conference on handling animals exposed to radiation. The report contains the opinions of wildlife and radiological experts on how to deal with the animals inside the radiation zone.
On April 22, 2011, Japanese policy makers began enforcing a strict “no-entry” policy into the 20km evacuation area around the destroyed TEPCO nuclear reactor.
Reports state as many as 200,000 people were evacuated to shelters. Many residents left their pets either inside homes, restrained on leashes, or free in the streets after the civilian evacuation took place. Prior to the civilian evacuation, there were estimated 5,800 registered dogs in the nine impacted prefecture areas. Accounting for unregistered dogs, one SPCA estimated there might have been 10,000 dogs within the area.
In the two months that have followed the evacuation, neither the Japanese policy makers nor TEPCO have organized any large-scale animal and pet evacuation. Photos and videos of starving animals have begun to appear on the Internet.
In response to this “no-entry” policy, a protest and vigil for the animals still stranded was held in Tokyo on May 8th at TEPCO offices. Citizens have turned to the Internet to voice their pleas and draw more attention on this ongoing animal emergency.
An evacuee of Minami Soma-shi, Fukushima has posted an emotional video online making a plea to “All the people of Japan” to rescue the animals and pets currently stranded in the TEPCO exclusion zone. The video, dated May 6, 2011, and entitled “SOS Fukushima Animals” is available on YouTube:
The recorded plea concludes: “Everybody in Japan, please help us. Please.”
A full English language transcript of this video is available at The Hachiko Coalition website:
The Hachiko Coalition can also provide more video and images from local residents and ad-hoc rescue teams who bypassed checkpoints and entered the hot zone. These pet owners, rescuers, and farmers are also available for interview.
Since the enforcement of the strict “no-entry” policy, many pets and livestock have died of starvation or dehydration. The Hachiko Coalition firmly believes this suffering was preventable simply by conducting an organized evacuation of the animals or permitting the willing and well-trained rescue groups to re-enter the zone and resume the animal evacuations and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
On May 12, in a story entitled “Risky Rescue: Saving Pets From Japan Exclusion Zone,” National Public Radio (NPR/USA) described animal rescuers who were conducting “clandestine and dangerous trips” into the radiation zone to rescue starving animals. Video footage of these raids has appeared on YouTube.
In one such video, a group of rescuers can be seen inside the zone dropping food in the empty streets — piles of dog food can be seen lining the streets. Barking dogs can be heard inside the now long-empty apartments along the street:
At 3:51, off-camera, a man says: “There are so many dogs barking…” Apparently urging his team to stay calm in the face of multiple dogs stranded within the apartments and potentially starving, the man says: “Everyone, stay strong… We’ll come back again.”
A May 15 article appearing in the Washington Times entitled “Thousands of pets left in Japan nuke zone” contains more estimates of the number of animals stranded in the zone and statements from the founder of Nippon SPCA:
Nippon SPCA has resorted to posting an open demand letter addressed to the Japanese Prime Minister and TEPCO on their Facebook page:
While this triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, radiation) might be unprecedented, it is not unmanageable. The Hachiko Coalition believes immediate animal and pet evacuation is still viable: Japan has vast resources and technical know-how and is capable of raising an organized and immediate evacuation. Japanese policy makers simply need to deploy the resources to solve this problem.
The Hachiko Coalition also urges TEPCO, the operator of the damaged nuclear power plant, to immediately release emergency evacuation funding from their disaster insurance pools to provide for the evacuation and sheltering of the livestock and pets impacted by this nuclear incident.
The Japanese Parliament in 1999 passed a revised Animal Protection Law, which defines criminal prosecution for “cruelty” and “neglect” of animals. The law is promulgated on the Ministry of the Environment website. Radiation exposure isn’t specifically addressed but various forms of neglect and starvation are addressed. It is not clear how these laws will be interpreted after this nuclear incident or if disaster declarations supersede the existing animal welfare laws.
On May 10, 2011, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in conjunction with the Japan Animal Referral Medical Center (JARMeC), released a “special committee” report detailing animal intake protocols for animals exposed to radiation and calling for the immediate evacuation, ongoing monitoring, and long-term management of these animals in the interest of public health.
The report (http://www.jarmec.jp/pdf/IFAW-all.pdf) states:
“Furthermore, we should expedite efforts currently underway in the evacuation area to take external measurements of animal radiation levels, and immediately evacuate animals that are able to survive.”
The report contains flowcharts showing the procedure for triage and cleaning of animals evacuated from the “hot zone” with the goal of returning them to normal life. Addressing the implementation of the procedures defined in the report, the committee states: “We hope that those responsible in the Japanese government and in each prefecture will study these proposals promptly for immediate implementation.”
The report concludes with this statement:
“Let’s save Fukushima. Let us work together for Fukushima and in so doing learn for the future of mankind.”
An English language translation of this special committee report is available here:
On May 12, democratic representative Tamaki Yuichiro announced pets would be rescued during two-hour home-visits by evacuees. However, this plan will take weeks to complete, leading to more starvation.
Furthermore, some evacuees have already found they cannot locate their pets in the two-hour window and this plan does not provide for the evacuation of stray dogs and cats.
On May 13, 2011, the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office announced a plan to euthanize much of the livestock within the TEPCO exclusion zone. This option was apparently forced by the lack of previous animal evacuation efforts. Many pets have already starved to death as a result of inaction and blocking access to the radioactive zone. Speaking to this situation, an official from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) stated:
“Since the zone is blocked, we have no idea how many pets are still alive.”
Given the special committee report procedures and the fact that a group of veterinarians has recently created a proposal to create an animal sanctuary, alternatives to mass-euthanasia exist and, as the special committee report states, study of these animals may provide long-term benefits.
The Hachiko Coalition believes the current “starve them out” plan to deal with these animals is unacceptable and reprehensible to the many people witnessing the events as they unfold. Each day that passes risks more unnecessary pet and livestock starvation, suffering, and death.
To prevent further suffering, and to comply with the special committee recommendations, an organized rescue operation of companion and farm animals must be implemented immediately. As the special committee report concluded: Let’s save Fukushima. Let us work together for Fukushima and in so doing learn for the future of mankind.
The Hachiko Coalition calls on the Prime Minster’s Office to issue an order and conduct this evacuation in accordance with the procedures set forth by the special committee immediately.
About The Hachiko Coalition:
Informally created during Hurricane Katrina to provide contract support to the US Air Force for civilian emergency evacuation, The Hachiko Coalition was regrouped and renamed following the triple catastrophe in Japan. Currently, the Coalition is working to draw attention to the plight of animals and pets left behind within the TEPCO radioactive exclusion zone.
SOURCE The Hachiko Coalition