Monthly Archives: July 2022

Japan Animal Welfare Scandal: The Consumer Response


Consumers Union of Japan is protesting against the lack of public access to Japan’s Animal Welfare Opinion Exchange Meetings and problems with the way the meetings are being run.

Japan has not adopted modern rules for animal welfare, especially in the chicken and egg production. A scandal erupted as LDP politician and former agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa was found guilty of taking bribes from Akita Foods Co., an egg producer based in Hiroshima Prefecture. At the same time, Japan had opposed globally binding rules for egg production at the United Nation’s organization for animal health, OIE, where international standards are supposed to be agreed upon. The fallout from the scandal continued to grow as Koya Nishikawa, also a former farm minister, resigned as a special Cabinet adviser amid criticism over his own intimate ties with Akita Foods.

Yoshiki Akita, the former head of Akita Foods Co., was found guilty of bribery in October 2021 and given a suspended sentence. Mr. Nishikawa said that whenever Mr. Akita gave him money, he always asked for help, not just for Akita Foods, but for the domestic egg industry as a whole. According to the Asahi Newspaper, Mr. Nishikawa set up a meeting between Mr. Akita and Mr. Yoshikawa, when he was farm minister. Mr. Akita then asked Mr. Yoshikawa to help Japan’s poultry industry by ensuring the Japanese government would oppose the proposal at the United Nation level to improve animal welfare standards.

According to the Mainichi Newspaper, at the time Mr. Yoshikawa is said to have received the money, discussions were proceeding over the formulation of animal welfare standards requiring farm animals to be raised in stress-free settings. The Japanese egg farming industry was opposed to such a plan for international standards proposed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The former head of Akita Foods petitioned Mr. Yoshikawa for revisions to the OIE proposal and in January 2019 and again in July that year, Japan presented opinions opposing part of the OIE’s proposed standards.

Japan’s 1973 Act on Welfare and Management of Animals makes it a crime to kill, injure, or inflict cruelty on animals without due cause. But egg producers are still mainly sticking to old-fashioned methods, such as confining egg-laying hens to very cramped cages. This also involves using antibiotics and other drugs. 95.2% of eggs in Japan are from caged hens and there is little awareness of the availability of free-range eggs, according to Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer, who has extensive knowledge of the situation in Japan.

Consumers Union of Japan was supposed to join an opinion exchange meeting about animal welfare at Japan’s Agriculture ministry (MAFF) but just days before the meeting in January 2022, it was announced that it would be closed to the public. After careful consideration, CUJ decided not to participate in such closed meetings anymore. Koketsu Michiyo, co-chairperson of CUJ writes in CUJ’s letter to the Japanese government:

As for the reason for keeping the Animal Welfare Opinion Exchange Meeting closed to the public, you say, “It is necessary to ensure a frank exchange of opinions among the committee members, and in order to hear frank opinions on issues in the field, it is also necessary to take into consideration concerns about the possibility of a ripple effect from the identification of the speakers. As the committee had decided to hold the meetings openly when it was reaching out to each committee member, the committee members would have accepted the request knowing that the meetings would be open to the public.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) bears a heavy responsibility for unilaterally declaring the meeting closed to the public just before it was to be held. The MAFF response to CUJ states that “there will be a ripple effect from the identification of the speaker.” What kind of ripple effect are they concerned about? We should understand that a ripple effect would indeed occur if the public’s interest in animal welfare is that high. In addition, a summary of the meeting is just that, a summary, without the names of each speaker, and it cannot be said that transparency is being ensured.”

The Animal Welfare Opinion Exchange Meeting was established to verify
the fairness of the poultry and egg administration in response to the
indictment of former Minister Takamori Yoshikawa on bribery charges. It
is only natural that the meeting should be open to the public,” says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ.

On 5 July 2022 both Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ and Kaori Yamane, Shufuren Association of Consumer Organizations resigned from the Animal Welfare Opinion Exchange Meeting to protest against the lack of public access to the meetings and problems with the way the meetings are being run.

Energy Shift

Energy Shift: Urgent Statement Against the Resumption of Nuclear Power Plant Operations on the Pretext of Tight Power Supply and Demand Due to the Extreme Heat

The rainy season ended about 20 days earlier than usual this year, and since the last week of June, there have been extremely hot days in many parts of Japan. As a result, the government has issued an “Electricity Supply-Demand Stress Alert” in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and other areas, and has issued a request for power saving. As if in response to this situation, there is a growing demand for the restart of nuclear power plants. Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) feels a strong sense of crisis over this trend toward restarting nuclear power plants, and we hereby express our clear opposition to it.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, nuclear power plants, which had provided nearly 30% of the nation’s electricity needs, were completely shut down. Until now there has never been a problem with the supply and demand of electricity because there is enough absolute capacity.

The current tight power supply-demand situation is a result of the government’s decision to shut down aging thermal power plants with low profitability during this period, while leaving it up to individual power companies to make their own decisions. The danger of nuclear power plants is not only a matter of the government’s own judgment but also that of the public.

The dangers of nuclear power are self-evident to both those directly involved in nuclear power plants and to local residents, especially in Japan, where earthquakes and disasters are frequent.

The power supply must be converted to renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power, and biomass as soon as possible. However, mega solar power plants and giant wind turbines are causing various problems such as environmental destruction in the surrounding areas. Rather than relying on huge power capital, it is desirable to decentralize and bottom-up energy systems so that local residents can participate in building systems that contribute to local revitalization.

At the same time, along with appropriate energy-saving lighting and air conditioning in offices and houses, we should also promote insulation and energy saving in buildings without going all-electric, use of public transportation and bicycles in urban areas, and other efforts. It is necessary to clarify the power generation capacity and other aspects of in-house power generation owned by companies and other entities, and to formulate measures to address electricity supply and demand.

Let us urgently work on an energy shift away from dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels.