By Fusako Nogami, ALIVE
The current first animal protection
law of Japan was enacted in 1973 partly to fend off international (especially
against the abusive way animals were
treated in research laboratories in this country (and also whaling).
"A Coalition of organizations to consider the animal law" comprising
more than 100 animal rights/welfare groups from all over Japan was formed
and has been promoting the campaign for amending the current law.
Parliamentary procedure to amend the existing law
The current law was enacted after the bill had been introduced by Diet members from various political parties. There are three ways to introduce a bill to the diet: by the Cabinet, by a ministry or government agency, or by Diet members.
The Prime Minister's Office, which is responsible for animal welfare in the Cabinet, has no inclination to introduce a bill for amending the animal protection law. It will therefore be up to Diet members to start the partiamentary process. Once it is introduced, it will be deliberated and either approved or rejected.
The committee of the Coalition contacted 500 members of House of Representatives and 250 members of House of Councillors asking for support at the end of last year and 80 of them have promised us their support so far.
Important/strategic parties that need to be influenced
The majority of Diet members belong to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Three years ago, the LDP set up a small committee within LDP the board of the environment to determine whether it would be necessary to amend the current law, and it has been inviting people from animal rights/welfare groups, zoos, animal-handling business, board of veterinarians, the medical faculty of colleges that deals with animals experiments, and other relevant fields.
The Democratic Party, which is the leading nongovernmental party, is planning to set up a meeting to talk about policies with the public, and after that another meeting with the LDP small committee members and animal welfare groups.
These two Parties are strategically very important.
How could pressure be brought upon Japanese government from outside Japan?
A chart which shows a clear comparison between the current Japanese law and that of other countries (especially Britain's and U.S.federal's) will be very useful. Animal related laws in other countries are little known in this country and the comparison will emphasize the ineffectuality of the current law in Japan. We are discussing what would be the most effective way of mailing/faxing a letter to members of Diet and other relevant boards/committees.
The role of the relevant government department in this process
The Prime Minister's Office is the one who is resposible for animal protection law. Every time the media ask the Office about the necessity of amending the current law, they reply that there is no need.The annual budget for enforcing the animal protection law is only 45 million yen (about 235,000 pounds). Without sufficient resources, it will not be possible to work out any effective policy. The committee of the Coalition believes that the responsibility should be turned over to either Minstry of Agricultre, Forestry, and Fisheries or the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
How could world animal groups effectively add to the pressure/lobby?
By getting in touch with MPs, Senators and Representatives, and asking them to urge Diet members to amend the law. It would also be helpful if politicians in other countries give related information to Japanese politicians when they go abroad.
The key messages that should be brought, and the focus we would want
Emphasis on Japan being one of economically leading states, yet one of 'underdeveloped' countries concerning animal welfare might work. Here, the way this issue will be brought out needs to be carefully considered so as not to criticize Japan's status quo too harshly. Otherwise, the politicians as well as the general public get into defensive mode. The best way is to point out the ineffectivity of the current law and suggest the amending ideas objectively and dispassionately.
The key issues(problems) are:
that there are no legal restrictions on animal handlers;
that there are no legal restrictions on animal experiments;
that a lot of endangered wild species (elephants: ivory; tiger: TCM, whales, etc) are consumed in large quantities.
that there is practically no system for quarantine for imported domestic and wild animals;
that a great number of domestic animals abandoned and destroyed;
And, of course, we want to focus on amending the law so that cases of animal abuse are subject to more severe penalties.
By the time the law was enacted, the bill drafted by animal welfare organizations had been mutilated so much that it ended up being of no practical use. It has never been amended since then and hence does not reflect the current situation in Japan, nor does it meet the requirements of modern society.