Kelly and Buzz



Hachiko Coalition Interview with Dr. Shigeki Imamoto, DVM, Nara, Japan  (Oct 2011)

I thought I would travel to the United States to be interviewed and I was a bit nervous but I was relieved that my interview would be via email and through a translator.  I apologize for my informal Japanese.


1HC: Could you please describe your current work, the town you practice in, how far away you are from the exclusion zone and your experience as a veterinarian, and your specialty if any.


I am the Director of Shinjou Animal clinic in the Nara prefecture.  We provide medical care mainly to dogs and cats.  The staff is made up of three veterinarians including myself and three assistants. It will take about 6 hours via Shinkansen or airplane to reach Fukushima.  It takes a long time.  As a veterinarian, I work on genetics.  I was the recipient of a veterinary award on genetic studies on a Miniature Dachshund.



2HC: Did you work with the VAFFA at the time of the earthquake, tsunami, and what were your responsibilities with that group.  What were the group's finding on theFukushima animals?  Did you agree or disagree with the findings and recommendations?


I was a group leader since it was called Fukushima Seibutsu shigen housha sen chousa dan (Fukushima animal resource radiation research group) before it became the  VAFFA.  After the first research I quit as a team leader.  The reason I left there was a difference between our philosophy to rescue large animals i.e., even though I was asked to focus on large animals, the VAFFA maintained their position that they would not rescue large animals.  Also since there were so many groups rescuing small animals I thought I would focus on rescuing cows and pigs.  I thought I would do it since no one else would.  I always wondered what the difference is between dogs'/cats' life and cows'/pigs' life.  If you are a veterinarian I think you have to reach out to as many animals as possible and help them.  I am so sad that the line was drawn between dogs/cats' lives and cows/pigs' lives. I learned nothing from the findings of the VAFFA.  I had been a participant in the group before and so I just kept working.


3HC: As a practicing veterinarian you were responsible for something called the Farm Sanctuary.  Could you tell us what the farm sanctuary is and are you currently working on that project?  If so, what  is the goal?


There are farmers who are against euthanizing animals in Fukushima.  I had been wondering what I could do to help them to save their cows' lives.  This is not a perfect sanctuary but I hope it becomes like the ones in overseas.  Actually I have not seen one outside of Japan. But I would like to make one where animal victims can live comfortably.  However, in opposition to the Farm Sanctuary, the Japanese government decided to destroy the livestock. I think the probability of getting assistance from the government is very low.


4HC: As a result of the earthquake/tsunami what has been your greatest worry, or preoccupation regarding the animals left behind in the no go zone?  What in your opinion could have been done differently?  What could have been done better? Why did the veterinarians stop going into the zone to help the animals?


It is prohibited for veterinarians to enter the exclusion zone.  Now only researchers from universities can enter the zone.  Animal rescue groups are also prohibited from entering the zone.  What am I worried about?  One thing worries me and that is that animals in the exclusion will starve to death.  All animals in the exclusion zone are starving.  If we could go back and re-do something I would have liked to have transferred all the animals before it became the exclusion zone.  In fact some animals were transferred very quickly.  On April 22nd, a wall of death called 20km zone was set.  The wall called the exclusion zone was set and many animals inside of the zone ended up dead from starvation. After that, the government decided to destroy animals in the exclusion zone.  The government who made this decision were not the ones to carry it out, as it was left to the local veterinarians to kill animals in the exclusion zone.  It is very hard work mentally and physically. I wish the government would have taken the path to make animals useful instead of killing them.  Japanese were people who used to hate taking life.  The Japanese also used to be people who would not act so shamefully towards others.  How was the decision to kill the animals reached?  I think this is such a shameful action to all people in the worldwide.   Many veterinarians wish to keep rescuing.  We have tried to get permission to rescue but have been rejected and permission denied.   I do not know who made this decision.  There are many places with radiation levels more than 100μSv/H. Plutonium and strontium have been found in some areas.  So that may be part of the reason for restricting the entrance to the exclusion zone.



5HC: What types of medical problems and conditions have you encountered in animals as a result of them not being fed or medically attended to inside the no go zone?


From the medical point of view it is not at this level.  First I would like to keep them alive.  This is the basic level.  Even for people who are starving, we would first bring food to them before bringing medical care.  This is the same level with the animals.  I am very worried that sick animals with low immune system may spread certain diseases among other animals.


6HC:  In your opinion, what are the radiation levels inside the 20km zone and have you seen any mutations in animals because of certain radiation levels? We understand you study genetics and associated diseases.


Fortunately because we were not allowed to rescue, there are many new born cows and pigs in the exclusion zone.  So far we do not have reports on mutations from the effects of radiation.  It was a mistake that we did not start doing research from the beginning.  However if I could do more research, I would like to do continue researching radiation and genetic mutations.  Some genomes would be damaged by radiation.  However depending on the damaged location the effect would differ.  So far I have not seen any animals whose genomes are so critically damaged.


7HC:  Is there a message you  would like for us to deliver to people regarding the animal situation in the exclusion zone?


I would like to ask everyone, "Do you think that the life of an animal is worth less?”  Do you think that destroying livestock who cannot be sold is a right decision?  After the disaster many people said they would like to rescue cows.  Their opinions were ignored.  I do not think our society should abandon life.  Animals live in the flow of life.  Humans are maybe the  only animals who are able to think that they wish to die and kill themselves. Animals do not think they want to die. Animals want to live. There are farmers who want to keep their animals alive.  There are voices from regular people who want to save these lives. There are professionals who want to rescue them.  What can we do to save these lives?  I wish I had an answer.


8HC- Do you have any comments or questions for people in the United States or worldwide?


I wish someday that we can show Fukushima.  Today, I can only tell people it is a tragedy.   I hope that I can tell a story of hope, a story that we can recover from the disaster.  I would like to encourage and urge people world wide to send their opinions to us.  When winter comes, grasses will be scarce and snow will fall.   Will the animals in the exclusion zone continue to die from starvation and cold? Japanused to be a country that treasured life, not a country which wasted life like this.  We as Japanese people used to be people who risked our own life to save others or to do something.   We used to be people who hated taking unnecessary lives.   I hope we will recover one more time.  Please help us recover and become the Japanwe used to be, the Japan everyone knew.



Read 3780 times Last modified on 月曜, 10 12月 2012 22:44