Death + Popular Culture Death + Technology



The euthanasia of unwanted cats and dogs is a regular occurrence the world over. However, in Japan, it takes on epic proportions. The voracious appetite of the Japanese for all things cute, fluffy and designer has spawned one of the worst adoption/destruction ratios anywhere. Whereas, in the United States about half of the animals in shelters are euthanized; in Japan, that number climbs to a staggering 90%.

The preferred method in Japan is to euthanize the animals by dumping them in an airtight metal box—as many as eight at a time—and pumping in carbon monoxide. This CNN video features one Japanese shelter on a typical day as they round up the animals for disposition. The reporter introduces the story by warning that some viewers may find the content “objectionable.” Yes, but not in the assumed way—not for having to see dogs and cats on “death row” (a misnomer of course since they did nothing wrong to land there, other than to be born). No, it’s objectionable because of the callous disregard for life that put them there in the first place.

This Asahi Shimbun newspaper article describes the ways in which workers at an animal protection center in one Japanese prefecture are doing outreach to school children to sensitize them and teach them about animal cruelty. “Now you understand that dogs and cats also have feelings, don’t you?” a worker at the Mie animal protection center asked students at Ominato Elementary School in Ise, Mie Prefecture, in early September.

The way in which we treat animals is reflective upon how we, as a society, understand life and death. The attendant value we assign to different living things is a sad commentary on the priorities of consumer-driven cultures (USA included) willing to sacrifice innocent life forms in the name of feeding faddish, acquisitive tendencies.

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