Wednesday Zen Moment: Japan’s pet cafes, meant to ease stress, could be stressing out animals

They love their cute critters in Japan so much that there’s a whole industry around pet cafes.

Spending time with cute animals is a way to destress and in urban centres like Tokyo, where there is a shortage of space, pet cafes have become increasingly popular.

But another disturbing trend is looming. It’s not just enough to have cat cafes or puppy cafes, Japan seems intent on having even more exotic animals. There are hedgehog, ferrets, goats and reptile cafes. An owl cafe, where the nocturnal animals are chained to posts and kept awake to amuse patrons in daylight hours, has been widely condemned on sites like Tripadvisor.

Now the latest addition is Mipig, which opened up in March. At this cafe in Tokyo, visitors pay to spend time with pigs and have to buy a drink in order to get time with the pot-bellied pigs for half an hour.

The cafe opened after a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to start operations with pigs being imported from Britain.

“We do not believe that it’s a good idea for animals like owls, for example, to be in these places because their movements are constantly restricted,” said Chihiro Okada, an official of Animal Rights Center

A petition on the organization’s web site calling specifically for owl cafes to be shut down has attracted nearly 60,000 signatures, with a number of people condemning the practice on the site and one person writing.

Owls do not belong in cafes. They are, indeed, another disgraceful example of animal abuse for people’s ‘entertainment.'”

Okada adds that there is very little oversight of the industry.

When an animal protection group or a member of the public reports an inappropriate situation, the authorities can enter a cafe and carry out an inspection, but as there are basically no welfare standards, improvements are never made, no matter how constrained the animals are,” she said.


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