TOKYO—On Monday, September 17th, the Japanese Coalition for Animal Welfare and Humane Society International hosted a Citizen Forum to build momentum toward the forthcoming revision of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals (Animal Welfare Act). The forum addressed the challenges in transforming the current law (which is perceived as only providing a moral philosophy on how society should handle animals) into a set of concrete regulatory provisions that would create actual protections for animals. Participants also discussed the current status of and trends related to non-companion animals, including laboratory and farm animals. Ahead of the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, the discussion highlighted the need for a law with specific regulatory measures that protect all animals.
The Citizen Forum was part of an effort by JCAW and HSI to engage with regulatory authorities and policymakers for the next revision of the Animal Welfare Act, as well as to raise public awareness about animal welfare in general. The forum was attended by members of the animal protection community as well as citizens who are interested in the revision of the Act, and the venue was filled with approximately 50 participants.
Some policy stakeholders involved in the revision process noted that the purpose of the current Act is not to protect animals, but instead to protect property and to merely express a moral obligation to love and protect animals. If this becomes the mainstream interpretation of the Act, Japan will be the only nation among developed countries that does not have any animal protection laws. Amidst such concerns, attorney Tomoko Asano explained the Act’s weaknesses and what needs to be changed so that it provides specific measures that truly protect animals.
In addition, the forum addressed challenges specifically related to lab and farm animals. There has been a shift away from animal testing to state-of-the-art non-animal alternative methods, and the most recent trends on such alternative methods were presented. A transition to human-biology based test methods not only saves animals, but also leads to improved product safety for consumers. JCAW and HSI have collaborated to improve protections for animals in laboratories in Japan by lobbying for the inclusion of a stronger clause on lab animal regulations in the Animal Welfare Act.
For farm animals, the forum introduced to the audience a manufacturing system in which the welfare of animals is appropriately addressed. As with lab animals, improving the welfare of farm animals not only benefits the animals, but has positive impacts on the quality of life of humans, including improved public health and food safety, and boosting the economy of agricultural industry.
Dr. Koichi Aoki, a representative of JCAW said, “We are expecting the bill for a revised Animal Welfare Act to be submitted to the Diet soon. We are hoping that this revision will become a crucial step in transforming the Act into a law with more concrete provisions that protect all animals. We also hope that this Citizen Forum helped boost public awareness and further enhance momentum to prepare for the revision of the Act.”
Troy Seidle, vice president HSI’s Research & Toxicology Department, said, “Many countries around the world have comprehensive animal welfare regulations for the purpose of protecting animals, and there has been tremendous progress in animal welfare regulatory policy globally since the Animal Welfare Act was first enacted. One example of such progress would be cosmetics animal testing, which has served as an incentive for transitioning to non-animal methods worldwide. Already 37 major economies have enacted laws prohibiting or restricting cosmetic animal testing and/or trade. Similar bills are under active political discussion in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Sri Lanka, South Africa and elsewhere. We encourage Japan to follow the global shift in public policy.”
HSI (Japan): Sakiko Yamazaki, firstname.lastname@example.org (interview in both Japanese and English)
JCAW: Koichi Aoki, email@example.com