Westerners who know little or nothing of Shinto like to think it’s a ‘green’ religion. Yet strangely the voice of Shinto is completely absent from anti-nuclear demonstrations, from protests against the dolphin massacre at Taiji, and from any kind of objection to whaling. In fact, the Shinto establishment is very much aligned with the Abe government in supporting all three of the anti-environmental measures.
If Shinto was truly concerned with environmental matters, it would certainly not be practising animal cruelty. Yet that is exactly what it’s doing at the annual Tado Festival in Mie Prefecture. The sickening Age-uma festival has featured on Green Shinto twice before (see here for details), and the authorities have even been taken to court to stop the barbaric practices. Yet animal welfare monitors report that this year’s festival continues to show absolutely no improvements at all.
Ironically, the horse is a sacred animal in Shinto, as it is regarded as the mount of the kami. A few special shrines keep a white horse on the grounds, and ‘horse pictures’ are the origin of the votive plaques known as ema. Yet despite this, Shinto shrines apparently see no problem with maltreating horses, leading sometimes to severe and crippling injuries. It’s a matter of ‘tradition’.
Here is the report of the Japan Animal Welfare Society for this year’s festival (Newsletter 83, Spring 2015, p.9). The emphasis is theirs…
Age-Uma still runningJCAW representatives visited the Age-uma Shinji again this year to observe and report on the cruel practices. This festival, held in Inabe and Tado Shinto Shrine, uses horses in a shockingly abusive way, where they are ridden at high speed and encouraged to jump a high, vertical stone wall.Unfortunately, the abusive actions of festival staff have continued despite numerous warnings issued by JCAW (Japan Coalition for Animal Welfare), including a request for action officially filed with the local police department.JCAW will continue to monitor this festival and devise new ways in which to change the current situation.This festival uses horses in a shockingly abusive way, where they are ridden at high speed and encouraged to jump a high, vertical stone wall.