Via The New York Times: Defying Japan, Rancher Saves Fukushima’s Radioactive Cows. Excerpt:
NAMIE, Japan — His may be one of the world’s more quixotic protests.
Angered by what he considers the Japanese government’s attempts to sweep away the inconvenient truths of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Masami Yoshizawa has moved back to his ranch in the radioactive no-man’s land surrounding the devastated plant. He has no neighbors, but plenty of company: hundreds of abandoned cows he has vowed to protect from the government’s kill order.
A large bulldozer — meant to keep out agricultural officials — stands at the entrance to the newly renamed Ranch of Hope like a silent sentinel, guarding a driveway lined with bleached cattle bones and handwritten protest signs.
“Let the Cows of Hope Live!” says one. Another, written on a yellow-painted cow skull, declares: “Nuclear Rebellion!” Inside the now overcrowded ranch, bellowing cows spill from the overflowing cattle sheds into the well-worn pasture, and even trample the yard of the warmly lit farmhouse.
“These cows are living testimony to the human folly here in Fukushima,” said Mr. Yoshizawa, 59, a gruff but eloquent man with a history of protest against his government. “The government wants to kill them because it wants to erase what happened here, and lure Japan back to its pre-accident nuclear status quo. I am not going to let them.”
Mr. Yoshizawa is no sentimentalist — before the disaster, he raised cows for slaughter. But he says there is a difference between killing cows for food and killing them because, in their contaminated state, they are no longer useful. He believes the cows on his ranch, abandoned by him and other fleeing farmers after the accident, are as much victims as the 83,000 humans forced to abandon their homes and live outside the evacuation zone for two and a half years.
He is worried about his health. A dosage meter near the ranch house reads the equivalent of about 1.5 times the government-set level for evacuation. But he is more fearful that the country will forget about the triple meltdowns at the plant as Japan’s economy shows signs of long-awaited recovery and Tokyo excitedly prepares for the 2020 Olympics — suggesting his protest is as least as much a political statement, as a humanitarian one.
“If authorities say kill the cows,” he said, “then I resolved to do the opposite by saving them.”
The cows at the Ranch of Hope are what is left of a once-thriving beef industry in the towns around the plant.
Entire herds died of starvation in the weeks after the residents left. The cows that survived escaped their ranches to forage for food among the empty homes and streets, where they became traffic hazards for trucks shuttling workers and supplies to and from the stricken plant. Proclaiming the animals “walking accident debris,” officials from the Ministry of Agriculture ordered them to be rounded up and slaughtered, their bodies buried or burned along with other radioactive waste.
Outraged, Mr. Yoshizawa began returning to his ranch soon after to feed the remnants of the herd he had been tending. He eventually decided to return full time to turn the ranch into a haven for all of the area’s abandoned cows. Of the approximately 360 cows at his 80-acre spread, more than half are ones that others left behind.