Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said they would financially compensate livestock farmers living within a 20 km radius of the Dai-ichi plant in Fukushima prefecture. The area was evacuated more than a month ago when the plant started releasing radioactive material after Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The farmers said compensation would not bring back their way of life.
Sadatoshi Sato and his wife, nuke evacuees living at a shelter in Saitama prefecture, are learning to grow vegetables.
“This will be our new job,” he said. “It’s a new experience for us. While I like to touch soil, I still want to go back to Futabamachi City and raise cattle again.”
Many of the 3,385 cattle, 31,486 pigs and 633,000 chickens within the evacuation zone have reportedly already died. There were about 305 farmers raising livestock, according to MAFF. The numbers could be even higher since Japan extended the evacuation zone beyond 30 km on April 11.
Cows shown on Japanese TV were bone thin and lying down in a barn because they no longer had the strength to get up. The farmers want the ones that are still alive to be put down instead of letting them die from starvation. But according to Yomiuri Shimbun, administrative officials have said they cannot deal with the matter until radioactivity leakage from the Dai-ichi plant is brought under control.
One dairy farmer who lived within the 20-km radius was able to visit his cowshed early this month, only to find some cows dead and starving. “Some cows came up to me and mooed forlornly, but I had no means of saving their lives,” he told Yomiuri Shimbun.
Unuma, who has 50 cows about 3 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi, said she begged Japan’s Self Defense Forces “to let my cows flee if you can.”
Many farmers said they had no choice but to flee the evacuation area immediately and abandon their animals. According to Christine Martine, a local veterinarian in Chiba prefecture, the sad thing is that the livestock farmers will suffer unbearable guilt and trauma for leaving their livestock.
“These animals also included precious wagyu (top quality beef) bloodstock rescued from the foot and mouth disease epidemic in 2010 in Miyazaki prefecture,” she told Majirox News. Martine added that the livestock could be rescued in the same way. “It is possible to evacuate the livestock, presently neglected by the government to the evacuation borders, wash and cleanse them, and then immediately move them to a safe area,” she said.
Martine, who is treating a few animals traumatized by the crisis at her hospital, said, “They suffer just as much as humans and need a lot of love to help recovery.”