Cute is a cultural icon in Japan. Everything is “cute”, as you know i.e. Hello Kitty! Everywhere you look, there are some cute cartoon characters. Puppies and kittens are so cute, of course the Japanese people love them. The pet industry relies upon the cute-loving culture and the impulse-buyers. The love of cuteness greatly helps the pet industry in Japan, but there is a dark side of the story. A few years later, very sadly, some irresponsible owners may take their grown-up puppies/kittens to shelters or pounds or worse yet release them in the mountains, because “they have grown bigger than they expected and they are not “cute” anymore.”
According to the annual report that is consolidated by ALIVE reports as below;
In 2003: Dogs 173,032/ Casts 267,214 were killed.
In 2007: Dogs: 100,963 /Cats 209,494 were killed.
The number has declined by 45.5% compared with the number in 1997 (ALIVE). The decline is mainly due to people being more informed and becoming conscious about the ethical treatment of animals (ALIVE). However there are a lot of improvements that still need to be made by the government, modifying The Act on Welfare and Management of Animals, which was first enacted in 1973 and modified in 2005. Enforcing and updating the act is a must as a next step. But in my opinion, the production of pet animals needs to be controlled in parallel with the modification of the act. There are way too many pet shops in Japan. They sell live animals at stores as well as on the Internet. This means that there are too many breeders or puppy mills throughout the country. In addition to that, the pet industry is lucrative. Popular breeds such as toy poodles run from $2,000 to 4,000. The other day, I saw St.Bernard puppy that was $3,500. Where can you have a St.Bernard in Tokyo anyway?
That particular St.Bernard was in a chain store that breaks my heart every time I see it. This store is located in a large entertainment district in Tokyo and is open all night. The animals are treated more like souvenirs than live creatures. In addition, a very disgusting practice often goes on in this type of store. This practice, for example like “Enjo-Kosai” (a sugar daddy system) encourages buying pets for all the wrong reasons. Customers at “hostess bars” buy pets for their favorite hostesses who have no interests in owning a pet, but will accept a cute puppy for a short period of time and then return the puppy to the pet store to get the money back. There are even some cases, “a kick back system” is arranged between the hostesses and the pet shops.
I would like to conclude this; many people in Japan get (buy) pets for the wrong reasons. They get them because they are cute at first and when the cuteness or the novelty wears off, the poor animals become disposable. For this reasons the concept of cuteness has its dark side to it.
Cute is not always good and maybe torture for some animals. These puppies that are bought, because they are cute, “given as gifts”, returned like unwanted and unloved products, probably wish they weren’t cute.
The attitude of animals being a source of food as an inalienable human right and the attitude of animals being objects to be bought, sold and returned stem from the same mentality.