More than 300 people gathered Thursday at a Tokyo symposium calling for a legal revision to better protect animal rights.

During the “Stop the Abuse of Animals! Make Life Friendly Society” symposium, which was organized by a national federation of citizens’ groups working for the cause, participants lamented the pitiable situation surrounding animals abused by irresponsible pet owners and traders, who are not subject to any punishment under the current Animal Protection Law.

Looking at photos on a big screen of a dog in a small cage and a chained baby elephant lying on heated concrete under the sun, participants sighed and voiced their grief and anger.

Unlike most industrialized countries, Japan has virtually no laws banning cruel treatment and experimental use of animals, said Fusako Nogami, head of one of the groups.

Under the current law, animal abusers and those who have abandoned animals can face fines of up to 30,000 yen.

The federation is calling for stiffer fines and the introduction of a licensing system of animal-related businesses, including breeders and retailers.

During the meeting, 10 lawmakers from various political parties who are working to revise the Animal Protection Law stepped up to the stage to enthusiastic applause.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, an Upper House member of the Democratic Party of Japan, said he has been working on the revision for the past year with his colleagues and the federation.

However, he said activities to promote the revision have entered a difficult stage. “What is difficult is to clearly define what constitutes the abuse of animals. Such a definition is indispensable to making the law effective,” he said, adding that it is not easy to reach a consensus on the issue.

After the three-hour symposium, Mitsuaki Shiotsubo, a photographer and head of the federation, said he believes the lawmakers will work harder to submit a bill to the Diet in the near future.

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