Masami Yoshizawa used to raise cows for slaughter, but since the Fukushima disaster his only aim is to save them. He believes the Japanese government wants to kill the cows in order to erase the past, and lure the country back to its pre-accident nuclear status quo. The “Ranch of Hope” now home to more than 300 cows is guarded by a large bulldozer at its entrance, along with bleached cattle bones and handwritten protest signs designed to scare off agricultural officials.

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In the weeks following Fukushima, entire herds of cows died of starvation after the residents left, and those that did survive escaped to forage for food among the empty homes and streets. These stray cows became traffic hazards for trucks shuttling workers and supplies to and from the stricken plant, which is why the Ministry of Agriculture ordered them to be rounded up and slaughtered.

This outraged Mr. Yoshizawa, who then returned to his ranch to feed the remnants of the herd on a temporary basis. Before long he turned this into a full-time occupation, and created a sanctuary for the forgotten cows in the area. He now has around 360 cows at his 80-acre site, more than half of which were left behind by other farmers. He still searches the evacuation zone for emaciated survivors, which he often has to pull by their ears to get them to follow him home.

Apart from levels of radiation 1.5 times higher than the standard set for evacuation, Mr. Yoshizawa also has to avoid police roadblocks when out foraging for food for the cows. He has already been caught a half-dozen times, which has forced local authorities to take a very Japanese approach to his situation – ignoring him completely. Officials deny any knowledge of a rancher or anyone else living inside the evacuation zone — despite the fact that they have restored electricity and telephone service to the ranch.

Despite their best efforts, it’s hard to ignore Mr. Yoshizawa, who continues to appear in news media, maintains a blog with a live webcam of the ranch, and holds occasional one man protests in front of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. headquarters.

Via NY Times

Images by CameliaTWUxJason.Rogersx