1. Legal history of the protection of animals
Emperor Tenmu first issued the Animal Protection Law in 657 AD under Buddhism in Japan, which prohibited the consumption of cattle, horses, dogs, monkeys, and chickens. Similar laws were enforced with the limited time offer, having been established every three years between 675 and 910 AD, a total of 78 times. This trend continued in the warrior age such that a series of laws concerning compassion toward animals was enforced after 1685, such as prohibitions against deserting sick people, cattle, and horses; protection for dogs and birds; prohibitions against rearing fish and birds as food animals; the elimination of the nests of black kites and crows because of their tendency to attack other birds; a prohibition against falconry; a prohibition against killing little birds, and so on. The imperial power established in 1868 rejected Buddhism and adopted Shintoism. The Imperial Rescript on Education was set forth in 1890, one of whose ethical articles stated that people should have a philanthropic attitude toward humans and all living things. After World War II, the minor offense law of 1948 prohibited cruelty toward animals. In 1973, the "Act on 'Aigo' (loving and not killing animals in Japanese) and the Management of Animals" was passed. This law emphasizing only to cultivate this mindset, has been revised every five years since 1999. In 2012, animal welfare was adopted as a basic provision in addition to cultivating citizens' respect for animals.
2. Citizen and government interest in animal welfare
The Japanese mindset toward animals is shaped by the long history of rice culture in which cattle and horses were valued as draft animals—a mindset supported by Buddhism. Thus, the general interest in the welfare of animals is biased in favor of pet animals, which were legally required to be reared throughout their natural lifespan. The Japanese mindset is not only set against hurting animals or causing them suffering, but also against killing living things. There are many memorials any place in Japan for lab animals, hunted animals, fur and draft animals, pets, food animals, and even weeded plants. In Japan, life and death are the most important issue. Therefore, Japanese consumers do not want to consider aigo with regard to farmed animals that are slaughtered for human use. An inquiry by Ministry of Environment in Japan (2011) showed that 82% of citizens did not know farmed animal welfare. Consumers having the Japanese mindset toward animals may not encourage farmers to improve farmed animal welfare.
On the other hand, the Japanese government wishes to be in harmony with the international community. In 2011, a private body supported by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan established "The Care and Handling Guideline for Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Pigs, Laying Hens, and Broilers for Animal Welfare" under a committee of producers, consumers, animal welfare activists, officers and scientists. This provision is very similar to the OIE codes for farm animal welfare adopted in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the government will promote this guideline among farmers under the revised Act on Aigo and the Management of Animals.
Keywords: Aigo ethics, law, sympathy, altruistic behavior, farmed animal