Aichi girl’s essay on rampant, cheap killing of stray cats spurs crowd-funded picture book


An elementary school pupil’s essay on the killing of stray cats has prompted a group of writers and photographers in the Tokyo area to solicit money via crowd-funding to make a picture book based on it.

The essay, titled “¥78 no Inochi” (“A Life Worth ¥78”), was written by Chika Taniyama in 2012 after the student, then in sixth grade, learned at the time that more than 200,000 animals were being killed annually, and that the cost of putting one down was ¥78.

“It was gut-wrenching to know that a life costs only ¥78,” the 14-year-old junior high school student in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, wrote in the essay, which won top prize in an essay contest in her city.

The essay caught Makoto Tozuka’s eye after a local cartoonist turned it into a manga and posted it online last summer. The 28-year-old writer and others later decided to support an animal welfare organization that was planning to make a picture book based on Taniyama’s essay.

As of Thursday, the crowd-funding website Green Funding by T-Site had collected ¥2.24 million from over 350 people, more than double the initial target of ¥1 million. The project is now aiming to secure ¥2.5 million by March 31 to print more copies of the picture book than originally planned.

Tozuka wanted to send a message.

“I want people to think about life from when they are young,” she said. “If no one discards a cat, there is no need to slaughter them.”

Taniyama learned about the fate that awaits stray cats when kittens born to her beloved neighborhood stray were sent to an animal shelter.

In the essay, she wrote, “Keeping a pet means being responsible for a life. One cannot throw them aside like toys.”

In the fiscal year ended March 2015, around 100,000 cats and dogs were culled, 80 percent of them felines, according to Environment Ministry data.

Thanks to adoption promotion campaigns for cats and dogs, that’s roughly one-fourth of what it was in fiscal 2004.

  • GBR48

    Pass a law requiring all pet cats sold to the public to be microchipped and neutered before sale. Only licensed breeders should be allowed to own an unneutered cat. And humanely cull feral populations before you get an epidemic of FIV, with licensed exclusions for traditional areas such as Yanaka and Tashirojima, where their health could be checked.

    Do this properly and the scale of the problem declines dramatically. It’s not rocket science, you just have to nudge people to behave responsibly with a suitable legal framework.

    • J.P. Bunny

      Major ditto. A problem that only requires a bit of willpower to solve. Maybe Ms. Taniyama should be put in charge of such a program.

    • Paul Smith

      I agree that humane culling of feral cats is a necessity, albeit a sad one. However, while it’s impossible to tell from the article just how feral cats are put down in Japan, it seems that the animal welfare organization described above opposes humane culling.
      And while I am very partial to cats and certainly value their lives, I also value the lives of birds. I do not know the statistics for Japan, but the Audubon Society estimates that domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds every year in the continental U.S. They are a very real threat to songbird populations. It’s safe to assume that free-roaming cats in Japan are a comparable threat to local songbirds.
      Once again, the responsibility lies with us humans.

      • GBR48

        You are right, in environmental terms, pet cats and ferals are a pest species, as they are introduced predators. We can’t do much about the ability of people to ignore inconvenient truths – the best we can probably do is keep the numbers down, particularly of ferals.

        I’d exclude from this, small, traditional communities of ferals as at Yanaka, as special cases. The reduction in strays is as much a battle for hearts and minds as anything else.

  • J.P. Bunny

    “Keeping a pet means being responsible for a life. One cannot throw them aside like toys.” Damn wise words from one so young. If only responsible adults felt the same.

  • Blair

    According to Phil, Japanese schoolchildren don’t write essays

  • bwprager123

    How could anyone not hate Japan? it’s beyond comprehension.

    • Paul Smith

      This issue is by no means unique to Japan. Your own country, wherever it is, is almost certainly doing much the same thing.

  • Bernadette Soubirous

    Yulin’s dog meat “festival,” where some 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and served up as meals, is often wrongly assumed to be an ancient Chinese tradition.
    In fact, the festival only dates back to 2009 when it was launched in the city in China’s southwest to celebrate the summer solstice.
    Thousands of dogs will suffer, be butchered, beaten to death, skinned alive and eaten.

    At its height during the Han Dynasty (202 – 220 AD), dog meat was considered a delicacy.

    Dog eating soon lost favor and by the Sui-Tang dynasties (581 — 907 AD), dog eating had been rejected as an indecent habit.
    Subsequent dynasties valued dogs as helpers and hunting buddies.
    With their new found bond with animals, this new generation of Chinese see cats and dogs as thinking, feeling individuals deserving of compassion. Most importantly, they are friends not food.