Cow News

Rebellious farmers just outside the “no go zone” created by the Fukushima nuclear meltdown continue to defy the government. These Japanese dissidents are not trying to overthrow the state; they’re not planning terrorist attacks; they’re not even unhygienically squatting on public land to protest wealth inequality. Instead, their great act of defiance is to feed their cattle.

69-year-old Yukio Yamamoto is one of ten farmers from Namie, which is within the “no go zone,” who is defying government orders to euthanize his 36 black-haired wagyu cows. The cows — once prized for their high-quality beef; each was once worth $10,000 — ingested radioactive caesium and Yamamoto was supposed to kill them by lethal injection…

“I left like everyone else after 11 March, “I couldn’t stop worrying about my cows, so I started coming back in every other day to feed them…Straight after the disaster, my cows had nothing to eat or drink … many of them starved to death right where they were tethered.I had to decide whether to leave the ones still alive or keep them healthy, even though we were separated.”

Unable to afford to feed them on his own and obviously without any assistance from the Japanese government, Yamamoto is feeding the cattle with donated food made available by the generosity of the worldwide community. He knows that his cattle will never be able to yield the high quality beef for which they are known, but he still wants to believe that they could be put to some other productive use. Tellingly, however, it is not the prospect of future commercial gain that keeps Yamamoto from abandoning his cows.

“Eventually the feed will run out, and the government has said it will kill every last cow. But that is something I can’t allow to happen. “I could never kill these cows. They are like members of my family.”

Perhaps I am missing something here. Sure, the cows will never be able to produce the meat for which they were bred. Of course, it would be dangerous if that meat ever did make it to market. Admittedly, the exposure to radiation may at some point in their future produce illness which would warrant a human euthanasia. But why is it such an issue to allow this man to tend to his cattle until that time? The financial burden is his (and those of the broader community who volunteer their assistance). I suppose it comes down to contrasting worldviews: are these cattle irreparably damaged commodities or are they another subset of victims of the Fukushima disaster?

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