I was moved by a newspaper story about the death of a female snow leopard at the Tama Zoological Park in Hino, western Tokyo, in mid-September.
The leopard shared quarters with three cubs she had given birth to last year. At mealtimes, the little ones were separated in an adjoining enclosure. This was done because otherwise she would have given them all her food and eaten none herself.
Sept. 14 was the day of the tragedy. The cubs had just been moved and the hydraulic door was starting to close, when they mewed. The mother heard and dashed for the doorway. She was crushed by the closing door and killed.
I recalled this poem by Minamoto no Sanetomo (1192-1219), the third shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate: "Even poor, dumb beasts care about their children."
I wonder if we humans read too much into what animals do merely by instinct.
But animals, too, need their parents' love during a certain period in life. Newborn kittens and puppies are adorable, but it is cruel to sell or buy them immediately after birth. Japan's just-revised animal protection law prohibits separating them from their parents until 45 days after birth.
Experts say puppies that are separated from their parents too soon tend to develop behavioral problems as adults, such as biting and excessive barking. This can result in their being abandoned by their owners and eventually put down at protection facilities. Many animals end up as victims of human greed and selfishness.
I was sickened by an account I read in a book. A man brought his dog to a local pound to be put down, but asked to adopt a puppy on his way out.
Even though the number of unwanted cats and dogs being put down is said to be on the decline, about 200,000 are still being "disposed of" every year.
Some people refer to their animals as "companion animals" because they are indeed companions, rather than just pets. People who shower their love on their furry or feathered companions are healed in the process. It is only humanly decent never to sever arbitrarily such a bond of love. No life is disposable.
A be-kind-to-animals week began on Sept. 20.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 21
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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