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Politics & Current Affairs

Searching For Solutions To Japan’s Deer Problem

As in the US, rural overpopulation is affecting farms and gardens all over, but implementing familiar remedies has proven to be a challenge.

What’s the Latest Development?

Japan is experiencing a deer population explosion that has cost farmers an estimated $33 million in crop loss each year, which is three times the amount quoted 10 years ago. Several solutions have been offered that are familiar to those in the US and other countries with significant numbers of deer, including the reintroduction of wolves — extinct in Japan for over a century — and the liberalization of hunting laws. In addition, various groups are trying to promote consumption of venison; last month visitors to a Tokyo event were served bento box lunches containing venison meatloaf and other wild game entrees.

What’s the Big Idea?

Several other cultural factors are contributing to Japan’s deer issues. Due to strict gun control regulations, hunting is limited to a very small group of people. Like the rest of Japanese society, that group is aging rapidly, and despite attempts to popularize the sport, young people haven’t shown much interest. In most prefectures, hunting season is now year-round, but it takes away from the fun, according to one hunter: “We can bag up to 18 deer in a single day.” On the other hand, the pro-wolf lobby thinks it may have culture on its side: Wolves were worshiped as deities in the past, are still venerated at some shrines, and are enjoying increased popularity in Japanese anime.

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