Attitudes towards animals & animal loving week among Japanese young adults

- Sayako Kanamori, Tomokazu Kawashima, Mutsuki Kuwabara, and Darryl Macer
College of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba,
Tsukuba Science City, Ibaraki 305-8572, Japan

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001), 82-84.

Animals are an integral part of our society. There have been earlier surveys of the relationships that Japanese persons have toward different animals (Kudo & Macer, 1999; Nishikawa & Macer, 2001). This paper describes the results of a survey on 88 young people, of whom all but 4 are university students at the University of Tsukuba. The attitudes that young people in Japan have towards animals is important for the future of animals and their conservation.


The first part of the questionnaire focused on pet animals. The first question revealed that 84% of the people had had a pet animal at some time, and 16% said they did not. The results are shown in Table 1. The most common pet was a dog (30%), followed by fish (20%), cats (11%) and birds (13%). There were also some more unusual pets, such as beetles (4%), turtles (5%), rabbits (4%) and hamsters (5%). We even had some people say they had a goat, or a squirrel or mole.

Table 1: When and how long have you had them? Kinds of animals


Pre-school 8

Primary school 44

Junior High School 23

High School 16

University 9

Length of time you had the pet

Less than one year 13%

1 year 13

2 year 14

3 year 6

4 year 8

5 years or more 46

Many respondents had a pet while at primary school, and few had pets as a university student. This may be because in the university dormitories and in many apartments it is forbidden to have a pet. In fact a few students considered that looking after a stray cat in Tsukuba was a pet.

When asked a question "Have you ever been cruel to your pets?" 25% said Yes, 27% said maybe they had been and 48% said they had not been. They gave various examples of what they had done, and the most frequent were making the pet a slave to their desires (5 persons), dropping the pet (4 persons), pulling the pet (5 persons) kicking or punching the pet (4 persons). Some said they surprised their pet, and some said that keeping them in a small room was cruel. Two felt regret as they had dumped their pet. One said they had left their pet in a car for many hours. Another said that they broke the pet's leg. Only one said they did not give the pet food. Only a few gave a reason, and these included because they were bored, they were irritated, or because they were a little child.

The next question asked, What are the good sides of pets? 44% said that pets were cute or funny, and another 17% said the pets were good company when they were lonely or depressed, and 8% said when they feel tired. One student mentioned the good experience when their dog gave birth, and another enjoyed when they gave food to the pet. When asked about the bad sides of pets, 35% said when they had to take care of them. 24% said it was bad when the pet died. 13% said that it inhibited their travel away. 13% were bothered by cleaning up the urine and faeces. Two people said that their pets were naughty, and another two said that it was awkward when they were busy.

When asked, if their pet makes them relaxed, 85% said they did and 15% said they did not. However only 42% said they think they need a pet, while 58% said they did not. Among those who need a pet, 10% said any time, 47% said when they feel sad, and 23% when they are tired.

When asked what their pet means to them, 36% saw them as family and 17% said as a friend, and 10% said as a pet! 12% said it made them relax, and 15% said they did not mind not to have a pet because they have to take care of them.

Two thirds (65%) said that they thought that animals have the same rights as we do, and 35% said they did not. When asked what rights, 25% said a right to live freely and 25% said a right to live. 5% mentioned a right to reproduce. The reasons given were because animals are living organisms like us, given by 27% and 17% mentioned just because an animal is a living organism. They reasons why people did not think they had rights were mainly based on saying humans are different to animals, by 24%, and 7% who said that if animal has same rights as humans they could not be pets. Only one person mentioned that we eat animals. The same proportion of people who had had a pet animal at some time tended to think that animals have the same rights as we do, as those who had not had a pet.

Another question asked them what their opinion was about making animals as pets, for example to make small pets or to castrate them. People were divided in positive and negative reasons. 18% said that they approved of this, with 5% of people said castration was needed for population control, and another 4% said small pets were needed for some people. But 18% said it was human selfishness, and another 30% did they did not approve of it (48% disapproving in total). 16% said it cannot be helped. However people who think that animals have the same rights as we do tend to have a bad impression for making animals as pets (55%), for example to make smaller pets or castrating them (55%).

The last question in this section was just to ask whether they wanted to write anything else about pet animals. Only 12% wrote something, and among these comments, 3% said that people who dump pets have no right to keep a pet. Other comments included the idea of needing a license to have a pet, and the need to have responsibility. If we say pet there is already some idea of a master-servant relationship.

Endangered and extinct animals

The next set of questions were on endangered and extinct animals. 79% said they knew of endangered animals, with 19% saying they did not know. The main source of where they had heard of these animals was in the media. 52% said they heard through television and 20% said through the newspaper. 18% said from magazines or books, and 11%said from other sources.

The most well known example was the Toki, a rare Japanese crane, which was mentioned by 46% of the 66 people who said they had heard of endangered animals. Next the most common was an Okinawan mountain cat, mentioned by 23% of these 66 people. There were many other examples mentioned by one or a few people. Overall 55% mentioned mammals and 42% birds.

Only 28% said that they had actually seen an endangered animal, and most saw these in a zoo (56%) or school (17%). 72% mentioned mammals and 11% mentioned birds. The next question asked what they would do if endangered animals were sold, and there were several reasons given. The most response would be to report it to the police 29%, followed by 25% who said they would not buy them. Most people thought it was not good, but many also said it cannot be helped.

81% said that they had heard of extinct animals, with 17% saying they had not. The DoDo was the most commonly mentioned, by 27% of the 77 people who said that they had heard of extinct animals. Also people said Japanese wolf 27%. Some people had heard about extinct animals from textbooks, for example, DoDo is seen in some cartoons for young people. Others were told by lectures in college. People were asked why they thought animals were extinct. 60% said because of human activity, and 35% said due to natural selection.

Next, people were asked whether they agreed to the use of biotechnology to bring back extinct animals. There were a variety of comments given, from agreeing to help for bringing endangered animals back, but disagreeing to use for reviving an extinct animal 5%. Overall 41% agreed and 46% disagreed. The most common comments were we don't need to bring back or increase the number because those animals cannot adapt to the surroundings which humans exist in now. Some conditionally agree, but those previously extinct animals should be kept separate. Some agreed would not allow the result of technology as a natural existence, others disagreed it would be only as a pet because it is human egoism. People who had a bad impression for making animals as pets disagreed more (57%) about using biotechnology to save endangered animals or bring back extinct animals. The people who agreed with using biotechnology to bring back extinct animals were not especially those who were aware of endangered animals or had seen them, in the earlier questions. Maybe people want to see the product by biotechnology just for fun as it does not relate to their personal concern or experience of whether they have ever seen or known about them. This would be interesting to investigate further.

Animal Loving Week

We were also interested in the fact that Japan has an Animal Loving Week, from the 20th to 26th of September. This is established under Law Number 105 of 1973. During that week many related festivals and meetings are held in every prefecture. We would like to know from readers whether other countries have a kind of animal loving week or not.

Actually, when asked about the practice, only 8 (9%) of the people said they did something at primary school. This may be related to differences in the prefectural implementation of the law, and in the information given to schools from the prefectural offices or education boards. They all said they made a poster about animals, and one said they also made a bird house. Only 1 of 12 persons who answered that they did something related to animal loving week, said that it had a good effect on them, 6 said they were not affected and 5 did not answer the question. The proportions in the total sample who thought that it had a good affect (9%), bad affect (2%), and had no affect (89%) were not different.

Only one person said they did something at Junior High School and that was to make a poster, and make a bird house. The next question was whether they had any activity outside of these times for animal loving week, and only two persons said yes. However, they did not say what they did or when. Both did something while primary school students but one said that education did not affect them, and another said that they cannot remember what they did.

Among those who did not do anything, 83% of the total, we asked why they did not do anything for animal loving week. 40% said they received no information at their school or anywhere, 32% said they did not have anything in our prefecture. In fact prefectures are meant to do something because of the law. 10% said they did not do anything because they were not interested in it. Two persons (3%) said that they did not do anything because they did not think that animal loving week meant that they loved animals. One person said she did not do anything because they did not love animals. Overall there was no difference in whether they had done something cruel towards animals or not dependent upon on whether they did something in animal loving week. It appears that education in animal loving week is independent of how people treat animals, especially pets.

We asked how people thought that animal loving week could be made more effective, and 32% said by better and more advertisement. 10% said by the schools encouraging students to do something. 3 persons said the prefectures should change their mind about animal loving week because in fact it is not a special animal loving week, because just making a poster and a bird house, as they say, is not loving animals. There does not seem to be special lectures on endangered animals, or any subject, from what we heard.

It is a little surprising to find less people actually practiced this. We can remember making a poster at primary school, and it appears that the law is not implemented. Maybe laws do not make us love animals? Japan has a law about animal loving week, in fact, primary schools have to do something related to the week. It depends on a prefecture. However, 74 of 86 persons said that they did not do anything for it. Overall it appears animals loving week that was established by law has almost no meaning. We want to ask readers whether you have a kind of animal loving week in your country, and is it established by law. What did you do? How did the experience affect you?

Discussion and Conclusion

When compared to the survey of Kudo and Macer (1999), which found that overall 41% said they had a relationship with a dog, 23% with cats, 13% with cows, 6% birds, 5% pigs, 4% chickens, 3% fish, 2% tortoise, with 2% other mammals and 1% beetles. We can see that the most popular pet was dogs as in the 1998 survey, however there are some features of young people in this current survey seen by the new data. Young persons have significantly more fish (20%) than the general public (3%). This may be possibly because as students they can keep fish rather than cats and dogs, however only 9% of students were talking about pets they had while they were university students. Probably it is a trend among young persons to have fish as a pet.

Also the question asked in the earlier survey was what animals you had a relationship with, and it may be that people do not feel so warm towards fish as they do towards other animals. The relationship that people have should depend on the length of time they have spent together, and the length of time people had the pets. The types of comment and reasons for having animals were similar, and please see the on-line versions of the papers for those open comments. In Kudo and Macer, overall, 50% said they liked the animals, 16% said they disliked and 35% said they do not feel anything. This was not specific to pets and included farm animals. Clearly for pets people should like the animals that they have, though some may feel it a duty to look after them once they get bored with the novelty of a pet.

We can see that while many people had heard of endangered animals, they do not know specific details. They may know the name, but not characteristics of the animal or the situation that makes them endangered. The place where most people saw the endangered animals was in the zoo, but they could not answer the name exactly. The fact that the main source of information is through the television, rather than the newspaper, reflects a trend in Japan observed in surveys on biotechnology by Macer that people are increasingly reliant upon the television media for information. Interestingly, despite the high use of Internet by this group of persons no one mentioned the Internet as a source of information on endangered species. There may be some room for extending information into that media as well.


Please look at the open comments in the on-line version (will be put on-line shortly).
Kudo, R. & Macer, D. (1999) "Relationships towards animals in Japan", EJAIB 9: 135-138.
Macer, Darryl R.J. (1998) "Animal consciousness and ethics in Asia and the Pacific", Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 10: 249-67.
Tsuzuki, M., Asada, Y., Akiyama, S., Macer, N.Y. & Macer, D.R.J. (1998) "Animal experiments and bioethics in high schools in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. Journal of Biological Education 32: 119-126.
Nishikawa, Y. and Macer, DRJ. (2001) " Japanese views on whether animals have a heart", EJAIB 11 (2001), In Press.

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