Letters [Nov/Dec 2009]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2009:
Japan beyond Tokyo
Your mention in the July/August 2009 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE
that a man who was arrested in Japan in 2006 for dumping butchered
dogs’ heads was of South Korean descent does not surprise me. Nor am
I surprised that dog-eating persists in Japan. But it is not the
Japanese who eat dog meat; it is Korean residents. The Japanese,
except during World War II when dogs almost became extinct because
they were eaten by the starving population, have never had the
custom of eating dogs.
Kansai (West Japan) and particularly Osaka is home to a large
Korean population, but since most have adopted Japanese names, it is
hard for outsiders to recognize them. They live in Korean areas of
Osaka city, and dog meat is on the menu of restaurants that serve
these communities. Perhaps because there is not enough dog meat to
buy in Korea, most of it is imported from China.
Kansai is home to many other businesses that exploit animals
for food or trade. One of the first signs that greets visitors on
their way from Osaka International airport into the city advertises a
whale meat restaurant. Kansai also has the most burakumin, the
Japanese “untouchables,” who live in enclaves and perform jobs such
as butchery, tanning, leather work, undertaking, and plumbing.
which they have done for centuries.
Then there are the yakuza (gangsters). Some Koreans and some
burakumin are gangsters, but not all gangsters come from these
origins. Gangsters formerly kept to the traditional vice trades of
money laundering, prostitution, gun-running, and extortion, but
in recent years they have moved into dog breeding and operating pet
shops. The police and other authorities are reluctant to inspect or
monitor these businesses.
Another business flourishing in Kansai, perhaps in the hands
of Koreans and/or burakumin, is the shamisen trade. The shamisen is
a traditional Japanese musical instrument made from cat skin pulled
over a drum. The skin must be replaced yearly to keep it supple and
keep the shamisen in tune. People are often shocked to find out that
their pet moggie has disappeared after she was let out at night. We
are told that the cats are skinned alive, but due to the clandestine
nature of this trade, it is impossible to get firm evidence of this.
Japan is basically two countries: Tokyo and the rest. Move
down to Kansai and then into the nether regions of Shikoku, home to
tosa dog fighting, cockfighting, and Japanese-style bullfighting,
all labelled “cultural traditions,” and beyond that to Kyushu, and
you will discover a very different side of Japan.
Animal Refuge Kansai
595 Noma Ohara, Nose-Cho,
Animal rights history
“The 1st Church of Animal Rights tried to launch the movement
in 1921” and your review of The Human Side of Animals by Royal Dixon,
published in 1918, both in the October 2009 edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE, were great reminders of the wonderful and wild people behind
all efforts to change the social conditions of their times.
I am a private veterinary surgeon in Zimbabwe. I am married
to veterinary surgeon Anthony Donohoe. Together we run a mixed
practice in Harare.
For many years we worked closely with Merryl Harrison, when
she worked for the National SPCA. Anthony assisted the National SPCA
for several years during the land invasions, carrying out the humane
destruction of abandoned animals, including dogs and the majority of
the horses. We were very sad when Merryl left the National SPCA and
Zimbabwe. She left a gap that no one has been able to fill.
With the deteriorating conditions in this country there is an
ever-larger need for animal welfare. Poaching is out of control at
this stage. There are reports of leopards, lions, and elephants in
illegal captivity. There are problems related to hunting using packs
of dogs. There is cruelty to donkeys, stray dogs need sterilization,
pet shops are substandard, and animals from pigs to crocodiles
continue to be abandoned on invaded farms.
The National SPCA no longer has the resources or the
personnel to respond to all of the animal welfare issues that are
occurring on a daily basis country wide.
Merryl has decided that she would like to resume her work in
Zimbabwe. We welcome this decision and would like to ensure that she
has the opportunity.
Merryl has indicated to us that she would like to start a
private welfare organization that runs parallel with and complements
the work done by the National SPCA. We have large premises near
Harare that we can utilize for this purpose, but some of the
buildings have been burnt by squatters and are in a state of
disrepair. However, the property has great potential for developing
into an animal welfare center. We envisage creating a center which
is ultimately self-sustaining and can generate its own funds, with
an educational facility for school children.
I feel that if we get the message out far and wide that
there are dedicated and wonderful people fighting to relieve the
suffering of the animals of this country, someone, somewhere may
help us with initial funding.
–Helene Donohoe, DVM
Time to ban horse-tripping and steer-tailing
Charreadas, the Mexican-style rodeos, are fast spreading
across the United States.
Though I’m a big fan of cultural diversity, legislation is
needed to ban charreada’s more abusive events, including horse
tripping, called manganas and piales, and steer- tailing, called
colas. Video of these abuses may be seen at <www.SHARKonline.org>.
Nine states have already outlawed horse tripping. California
was first, in 1994, followed by New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma,
Maine, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, and Arizona, whose ban was
passed in 2009. Nebraska in 2008 also banned steer-tailing, the
only state to do so. Steer-tailing is also cruel to horses, who
sometimes break their legs when the steers run the wrong way.
In addition to the states that have banned horse tripping,
charreadas are known to occur in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Georgia, and
probably occur elsewhere too.
These brutal events are not standard ranching practice
anywhere in the U.S. Neither are they approved by any rodeo
association. Cesar Chavez prominently opposed them.
Most state legislatures reconvene in January. Animal
activists would be wise to sponsor legislation simultaneously around
the country to stop this cruelty. We also need laws requiring
on-site veterinarians to be at all charreadas and rodeos to care for
We will be happy to send copies of our recommended
–Eric Mills, coordinator
Action for Animals
P.O. Box 20184
Oakland, CA 94620
Tweety, Sylvester, & predation vs. bird numbers
The article title “How often has Sylvester killed Tweety?”
above Judith Webster’s guest column in the July/August 2009 edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE belittled the seriousness of cat predation on our
native wild birds. Scientists estimate that nationwide, cats kill
hundreds of millions of birds a year. Our valuable native wild bird
population is declining.
Judith Webster says that the American Bird Conservancy
literature includes disputable studies. But contrary to what she
says, the American Bird Conservancy literature cites documented
impacts on birds from feral cat colonies. Where there are cat
colonies, there are very few birds, if any. When the cat colonies
are removed, the bird count increases.
I pick up and deliver injured and sick birds for the Santa
Rosa Bird Rescue Center. Of the birds that I pick up, between a
third and half have been catted. Many of them do not survive the
ordeal. Until people can eliminate feral cat colonies, and until
people can all keep their cats indoors, or else walk them on a leash
and not let them roam free, we will continue to lose our wild birds,
who are vitally important to every ecosystem.
–Elaine I. Woodriff
The goal of neuter/return is to eliminate feral cat
populations in the most humane and ecologically sound manner
possible–which will end any predation by feral cats.
Meanwhile, Judith Webster pointed out that BirdLife
International’s 2008 State of the World’s Birds report recognizes cat
predation as a possible factor in the decline of only three North
American bird species, and that “Data sheets for the same birds from
the National Audubon Society list cats not once.”
Wild bird species, like other wildlife, have evolved to
withstand intensive predation. Most terrestrial bird species have
always been menaced by abundant cat-like predators, as well as birds
of prey, snakes, and small primates. Thus many bird species lay
far more eggs than they hatch, and produce more hatchlings than they
feed to fledging. The extra eggs and hatchlings are insurance
against nest predation, and are often left to predators once the
eldest and strongest offspring appear likely to survive.
Predators of any species target mostly the sick, the
injured, the very old, and the most vulnerable young, especially
those not defended by parents. To a considerable extent predation is
among the first defenses of a species against disease, as diseased
animals often become prey before they can infect many others.
Predation becomes a threat to the survival of a species only
if it harms the reproductive capacity of a population, for example
by killing healthy adults or young who would otherwise have a good
chance of survival.
Several major studies have found reason to suspect that most
cat-killed adult birds are caught because they are already afflicted
by illness, parasites, injuries from collisions with windows,
vehicles, wires, or microwave towers, or pesticide intoxication.
Though a cat may dispatch these birds, the cat is not the reason why
they are not succesfully reproducing.