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An Animal Advocates Seminar

Animal rights experts visited campus on January 21 to facilitate an Animal Advocates Seminar in the high school library. Over 30 students from ASIJ, Sacred Heart, YIS, Junten and Yamate Gakuin attended the seminar to explore animal rights issues with the visiting experts and brainstorm ideas on how to make a difference in the areas of animal rights and protection. Members of ASIJ’s Animal Advocates Club and club advisor, Linda Hayakawa, cover the event.

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The scope of the Animal Advocates Seminar covered several main topics, from pet stores and stray cats to aquariums, zoos and circuses. The experts split into three groups and led discussions on each topic.

Maho Cavalier, ALIVE and Animal Walk Tokyo board member, led the conversation on Japanese law and owl cafes while the stray cats group worked with Eri Ichikawa, Eiko Sato and Tomie Kurachi of Shonan Kamakura Neko Hot Support. The pet store group spoke with Elizabeth Oliver MBE, the founder of Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) and Julie Okamoto, director of Tokyo ARK. Students discussed aquariums, zoos and circuses with visiting specialists Helen Marvell, coordinator of Animal Advocacy Japan, and Hilary Knight, volunteer at the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos.

Lisa Watanuki (Club Leader, Grade 12)
The mini-convention that the Animal Advocates held proved to be a valuable experience for all participants, as members of the current Animal Advocates Club and members from other schools took the opportunity to learn more about the animal issues of today

One group in particular focused on the issue of stray cats within Japan. Participants in this group learned more about why we should neuter these cats, the main reason being that we do not want more cats that must depend on humans for food.

Linda Hayakawa (Club Advisor, Head Librarian)
The experts who spoke to the stray cat group were representatives of Shonan Kamakura Neko Hot Support, a TNR (trap, neuter and release) operation, whose intent is to gradually reduce the population of stray cats through sterilization. Aiding the conversation, they brought pictures, a live trap and a panel theater.

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Maho Cavalier spoke via Skype regarding the Japanese Act on Welfare and Management of Animals, how the law was initially passed and its various amendments. She described the process by which a law or amendment is passed in Japan through submission to the upper house of the Diet, testimony before a committee, as well as the different interest groups involved and subsequent votes in both houses.

Ms. Cavalier also addressed the focus group on owl cafes, discussed how the owls are mistreated; the fact that they are not allowed to fly and are kept awake during the day—despite the fact that owls are nocturnal. She stressed that these are wild animals that are not comfortable with human contact.

Yuki Peters (Club Leader, Grade 12)
Elizabeth Oliver and Julie Okamoto talked about the cruel conditions in pet stores and breeding facilities and the challenges they face in holding those responsible accountable.

Their presentation focused on Saga Prefecture which, despite being the smallest prefecture in Japan, is home to the most breeding facilities and is consequently responsible for many cases of animal abuse. At one facility, Ms. Oliver observed dogs kept on inhumanely short leashes in grossly substandard facilities. In conjunction with ARK, Ms. Oliver filed a lawsuit against the breeder. Though they eventually won, he was allowed to resume business after paying only ¥300,000 in fines.

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Our group was surprised to learn that the cute pet stores we are so accustomed to seeing in Tokyo are often sites of animal abuse. For example, some major pet store chains minimize losses by prematurely euthanizing unwanted animals. In addition, some local pet stores underfeed their animals to keep them small and desirable for potential customers. Ms. Oliver and Ms. Okamoto cited the lack of law enforcement and lenient legal consequences as primary reasons why animal abuse is so prevalent in pet stores and breeding facilities across Japan.

Bar Savion (Club Leader, Grade 10)
Helen Marvell and Hilary Knight spoke with students regarding aquariums, zoos and circuses during the Animal Advocates Seminar. In this meeting we focused on the treatment of dolphins and elephants in captivity, whether it be for work or for entertainment.

We were intrigued to learn about the conditions of aquariums in which dolphins live and that their life span decreases by almost 50% after being put in captivity. We also learned about the kind of treatment that both elephants and dolphins are subjected to so that they can perform tricks, obey their owners and tolerate inappropriate human interaction for entertainment. Methods that include inflicting physical pain and eliciting fear or discomfort are not uncommon in these situations.

The ASIJ Animal Advocates group volunteers year-round to in order to address animal abuse and cruelty. Students regularly offer their time at ARK adoption events on weekends, where people can come and interact with various animals. Our kids go and hold the animals, play with them and talk to guests, explaining something about “their” animal. So far this year, student volunteers have gone to ARK events in Fujisawa, Jingumae and Shakuji-Koen.

Students have also volunteered at Animal Walk Tokyo events for the past three years. One such event is “Sanpo in the Park,” which recently raised over ¥200,000 for a Tokyo shelter called Dog Shelter. Our animal advocates made origami kits to donate, dog treats for the pets and baked goods for the people.

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In addition to volunteering and collaborating with other animal advocacy groups, our students raised over ¥500,000 last year through bake sales and sports concession sales at events such as Spirit Day and Winterfest. They donated that money to five charities: ARK, HEART Tokushima, ALMA, ALIVE and The World Wildlife Fund.