Former J-pop star, erotic novelist and television sex guru Aya Sugimoto is already well-known in the Japanese animal welfare community for her strong anti-fur stance, but this year she has taken aim at the abominable state of Japan’s pet industry by founding her own animal welfare organization, Eva.

Last week, she sat down with members of the media to talk about why 170,000 cats and dogs are inhumanely gassed every year in Japan and what we can do about it.

Although Japan loves its petscurrently, the number of cats and dogs outnumber children in Japan’s homesover 200,000 animals end up at animal control each year. Of these, about 170,000 are put down. And lest you think they are humanely euthanized, think again. To save money, animals are crowded into an air-tight box 20 or 30 at a time and gassed with carbon dioxide, effectively strangulating them over several minutes. Sugimoto describes them as “writhing in agony” during the process.

Of course, this is not just a problem with how most Department of Public Health offices deal with the problem of stray and abandoned animals. It’s also an issue of why so many animals end up there in the first place. Sugimoto lays the blame clearly at the feet of an unscrupulous pet industry and an uninformed citizenry.

Demand has led to an increase in so-called puppy mills, where dogs and cats of popular breeds are produced as quickly as possible, without thought to the health or welfare of the animals. The babies are then sold at auction to pet shops, often before they are eight weeks old, long before experts recommend removing them from their mother and siblings. This has been shown to cause behavioral problems later in life. Pet shops then display the kittens and puppies in little window showcases. Until recently, they were even allowed to do this 24-hours a day. Animals that are not sold while they are still young often end up abandoned or turned over to the pound, which of course means they will probably end up in the aforementioned gas chambers.

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Sugimoto also says the industry helps to create irresponsible pet owners by allowing anyone who can pay to take an animal home, without having any idea about how to properly train or care for it. They may not even know how big their puppy is going to get, for example. This leads to owners abandoning their pets down the road when they can’t control them or they no longer fit their lifestyle.

These kind of pet owners are not rare, she says, but rather, “they are normal, average, healthy citizens.” There is simply not much awareness about animal welfare or what happens to stray and abandoned animals.

Sugimoto suggested that the answer to the problem lay in educating this public and bringing about changes in Japan’s animal welfare system. From the point of view of the law, she said, animals are things, not living beings. Moreover, the police and other government officials charged with carrying out the law as it exists generally do not know what it actually says. There are no public institutions tasked specifically with the problem of animal abuse, leaving diverse and scattered private organizations to pick up the slack.

With her organization, Sugimoto hopes to work towards “a mature and healthy society where animals and people can live together happily.”

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Source: Independant Web Journal, h/t Hamusoku
Images: Adweek, IWJ, Eva

Watch the full video of her press conference here