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Factory Farming in Japan

Fusako Nogami (ALIVE)


For over a thousand years, agriculture in Japan was synonymous with rice cultivation in paddy fields. An edict prohibiting animal slaughter based on Buddhist teaching was issued frequently in pre-modern Japan. Due to these factors, farm animals in Japan were traditionally kept only for work in the field and not for meat.

The unprecedented economic growth during the 1950ís and 1960ís however, profoundly changed farming in Japan by introducing large-scale farming with modern agriculture machines. From the 1960ís onwards, the meat consumption increased greatly and the figure in 2000 increased by five-fold. This is a result of the Japanese governmentís policy in which large scale modern farming was promoted by granting generous government funding.


As a consequence of factory farming, as it is know today, there have been a number of outbreaks of various infectious animal diseases in recent years. Some of the serious examples are:
In 1996, food poisoning caused by O-157 killed 12 people and over ten thousand people were affected. There have been similar cases since then throughout the country in which several people died and thousands were affected.
In 1996, The first cow to be infected by BSC was discovered. Since then 11 cases have been identified.
In 2000, for the first time in 92 years Foot and Mouth disease was discovered in Miyazaki and Hokkaido (the southern and northern tips of Japan) and 22 infected and 718 suspected animals were destroyed.
In 2000, serious food poisoning broke out at Yukijirushi, the largest dairy food manufacturer in Japan.
In 2003, formalin, a prohibited substance, was discovered in farmed blowfish (more than 60% of the growers were found to be using the substance).
In January 2004, bird flu broke out. In late February, infected birds were found in a large poultry farm where its entire stock of 250,000 birds were destroyed.
These outbreaks of diseases have lead to the overuse of chemicals on animals. In particular, the amount of antibiotics used on stock is extremely high. It is estimated that in Japan, antibiotics in medical use is 500 tons (100 tons used in hospital and 400 tons as prescription) but the use on stock is as much as 1200 tons (900 tons on poultry, pigs and cows, 200 tons on farmed fish and 100 tons on vegetable, fruits and rice). This has resulted in breeding a strain of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and it is estimated that 20,000 deaths are caused by these antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year.
The high consumption of animal fat and protein have lead to an increase in chronic diseases, of which cancer, heart diseases and stroke are the top three causes of death in Japan today
Japan grows only 40% of its food (calorie supply). Meat products in particular are heavily dependent on import, and only 25% of animal feed is grown in the country.?90% of feed for 1.7 million dairy animals, 2.8 million beef cattle, 9.7 million pigs and 300 million chickens that are grown in Japan is imported.
A large amount of grain import by one country causes unequal distribution of food in the world. Moreover, this intensive factory farming is well beyond the capacity of existing facilities for animal waste disposal, which is causing very serious environmental problems.