Horse whipping at Kumamoto shrine festival blasted as cruel

JIJI

A video tape showing a horse getting whipped at a traditional festival held last month in the city of Kumamoto has caused a public outcry, with many people calling it a form of animal abuse.

The clip, apparently taken Sept. 16 during a break in a parade at the Fujisaki Hachimangu shrine, showed a man whipping the horse several times.

The horse was seen kicking its legs and trying to avoid the beating. The video also included the sound of people laughing.

After a television station aired the video as part of a program, the Kumamoto Municipal Government and other officials received over 250 complaints. Some people said they felt sorry for the horse while others said the festival should be discontinued.

The city’s animal protection center has asked the 1,000-year-old Shinto shrine to report back to it on the incident that occurred during the festival’s main event.

Horses decked in decorative gear, which appear at the end of the parade and are offered to the shrine, are the highlight of the event. Participants try to get the horses riled up as they walk through the city.

It has been customary to shout at and slap the horses to get the animals agitated and make them appear energetic.

According to the shrine and other sources, the practice was fully established after World War II. They said that in the past, there were times when horses were whipped so hard they ran amok and injured people.

An organization establishment in 2010 that oversees the groups taking part in the parade, however, has been telling participants not to whip the horses or use coercion to get them to move forward.

Using intimidation to urge the horses onward was once considered valiant, said Kyozo Inomoto, who heads the organization. “But how the public views such things has changed,” he said.

According to the organization, the group featured in the video apologized following the uproar and said that it will not participate in next year’s parade.

Inomoto indicated that he will work on preventive measures and expressed regrets, saying that the organization should have done more to prevent such a problem.