Preserve Standards of Animal Welfare at the Tokyo Olympics!
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While the London and Rio Olympics showed consideration for the welfare of animals, the Tokyo Olympics appear to be a very different story. In their desire to produce meat, eggs, and milk to be consumed at the upcoming games, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is seeking to greatly reduce the standards of treatment and husbandry of farmed animals. Let's examine the standards upheld by previous Olympics, and see how the Tokyo Games stack up.
The eggs consumed at the London Games were produced by chickens kept in a poultry house that was also provided with a fenced yard. They could go inside and outside at will. The chickens providing the eggs for the Rio Games were tightly confined for most of their lives, but at the very least their cages weren't stacked on top of each other, as is the norm in the egg industry.
However, organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are set to treat their chickens even more poorly, by confining them to battery cages. This cruel method of keeping chickens has already been banned in the E.U. and in Bhutan, and is being protested all over the world.
A chicken can remember the faces of up to 100 other chickens, and are as good at communicating with humans as dogs are. When kept in an ideal environment, a chicken will happily spend his days pecking around for food, digging in the dirt, and taking sand baths. They live with their flock, and when night falls, they retreat to their favorite tree branch to sleep on.
Yet these intelligent, inquisitive animals are routinely kept in cramped wire mesh cages, unable to engage in any of these natural behaviors. Their eggs are stolen away from them as soon as they are laid. In such cramped conditions, even trying to flap their wings causes them to break their fragile bones. Their legs and feet are pinched by the wire mesh, and they often suffer fractures and dislocations. They are crammed so closely together that they step on and are stepped on by other chickens. Many birds die inside the cages.
According to sales data, 99% of eggs consumed in Japan come from chickens tightly confined to battery cages, where the space allocated to one chicken is roughly the size of a small iPad. This is the quality of eggs that the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are offering the many athletes and tourists that will come to Japan for the Games.
When producing pork for the London Games, the use of narrow metal enclosures known as gestation crates was not allowed. Unfortunately, gestation crates were used when raising pigs for the Rio Games. However, some good news for animals came when JBS, the largest meat producer in the world whose second best customer is Brazil, and Arcos Dorados, the company that runs McDonald's in South America, promised to stop using gestation crates by 2016.
Gestation crates are currently banned in the E.U. as well as in ten states in the U.S. Despite the fact that growing numbers of people all over the world are calling for them to be eliminated completely, the Tokyo Games have decided to use them.
Mother pigs in gestation crates spend their lives in confinement. The cage is only slightly bigger than their own body, so walking is impossible. They are unable to turn around, or even look to the side, and these social animals are prevented from having contact with other pigs. The only things they can do are drink water, eat food that is sometimes dropped on the floor for them, and chew the bars of the cage directly in front of them. The pig will be forcibly impregnated. Her belly will continue to grow until she finally gives birth. She will then nurse her babies for 21 days, before she is impregnated again. All of this happens inside the gestation crate.
In the summer of 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries hurriedly created the JGAP (Japan Good Agricultural Practice) certification for use in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. There are a few nods to animal welfare included in the certification requirements, but the standards of treatment and husbandry of the animals remain incredibly low.
Eggs produced by chickens in battery cages. Pork produced by pigs in gestation crates. Milk produced by cows who spend their entire lives in stalls so dark that the cows suffer from vitamin A deficiencies. While all of these are considered acceptable by JGAP standards, they are nowhere near the standards of producers in other countries when it comes to animal welfare.
The Ministry claims that their certification upholds the global standard set by the World Organization for Animal Health's Terrestrial Animal Code, but the truth is that not only does the JGAP fall far short, it also makes no mention whatsoever of slaughter techniques. Therefore, cruel methods like killing chickens without stunning them first continue to be the norm in Japan. In the committee's quest to create a sustainable Olympics, they are creating an Olympics in which more animals will suffer than ever before.
In a survey of average Japanese citizens conducted by Animal Rights Center in 2017, only 3.9% of people polled stated that they know about animal welfare. It seems that the Japanese are far behind the rest of the world when it comes to awareness of animal-based food production.
Activists for animal welfare in Japan are doing their best, but they need help. All nations must come together to help the animals of Japan. We must build an Olympics that humans can enjoy while showing compassion to non-human animals.
Please, help us to preserve standards of animal welfare at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
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