A recent graft scandal involving a former agricultural minister has catapulted the issue of animal welfare into the spotlight, illustrating the great lengths to which the nation’s poultry industry went to preserve its decades-old yet globally criticized practice of confining egg-laying hens in small cages.

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Takamori Yoshikawa is in hot water amid allegations that he received ¥5 million in undeclared donations from a former head of Akita Foods Co. — a poultry giant based in Hiroshima Prefecture — several times during his stint as farm minister from October 2018 to September 2019.

The donations to Yoshikawa coincided with growing international calls for animal welfare that many domestic farmers at the time saw as incompatible with, and even as an existential threat to, Japan’s poultry businesses. The fallout from the scandal continued to grow Tuesday when Koya Nishikawa, also a former farm minister, suddenly resigned as a special Cabinet adviser amid criticism over his own intimate ties with Akita Foods.