Fukushima: Livestock Left To Die In Dead Zone

The Yomiuri Shimbun

FUKUSHIMA–More than 600,000 domesticated animals have been left behind within the 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant since local livestock farmers evacuated more than a month ago.

As of Tuesday, about 30,000 pigs, about 600,000 chickens and about 3,000 cattle were still in the evacuation zone, the Fukushima prefectural government said. Many of them are believed to have starved to death.

As for the livestock that are still alive, farmers want them put down instead of letting them die from starvation. But administrative offices have said they cannot deal with the matter until radioactivity leaking from the plant is brought under control.

According to the Fukushima prefectural government, livestock and dairy farming thrived within the zone–a farm producing brand-name “Fukushima beef” and a leading food manufacturer’s piggery being just two examples–before the nuclear crisis occurred.

The government issued the evacuation directive on March 12, the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Pacific coast of the Tohoku and Kanto regions. The disaster caused the nuclear crisis, leaving local farmers with no alternative but to flee immediately and abandon their livestock.

Prima Ham Co. in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, had bred about 13,000 pigs at a farm in Tomiokamachi, a town about six kilometers from the nuclear plant. A company spokesman said, “The best we could do was to evacuate about 30 employees from the farm.”

Shuichi Soma, 35, a dairy farmer responsible for 200 cattle in Odaka Ward, Minami-Soma, a city within the 20-kilometer radius, said he visited his cowshed early this month, only to find some cows dead and others thin and starving.

“Some cows came up to me and mooed forlornly, but I had no means of saving their lives,” he said.

A man, 73, who looked after 20 cattle in Tomiokamachi, said he often left his evacuation center to go and feed his cows. “I know each of these cows right down to their facial details and individual characteristics. I don’t want to see them suffer,” he said.

A local livestock and farming cooperative association and individual livestock farmers have asked the prefectural government to prevent the livestock from starving to death and suggested they be put down instead.

But the prefectural government said it had no alternative but to turn down this request because it is too dangerous to enter the 20-kilometer radius zone.

Likewise, the Self-Defense Forces cannot afford to dispatch personnel for this purpose as they are busy with their main mission, including search operations for missing people.

“It’s heartbreaking but our hands are tied and we can’t do anything about this situation,” a prefectural government official in charge of livestock business said.

(Apr. 21, 2011)

Source: The Daily Yomiuri

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