For the latest information on the situation, please check here (April 25th) and here (May 5th)

Earlier this April we made our way to Fukushima to do some investigative reporting of the current conditions in the five- to ten-kilometer area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the first in a series of articles where we will report our findings from our time on the ground in Fukushima.

The location for our first story is a ranch in Namie, a town located 10 kilometers from the nuclear plant. Here, instead of the lively sounds of farmers going about their daily work, the air is filled with the desperate cries of abandoned cattle. Going to the barn to investigate, we found that over half the cattle in every pen were dead, and the rest were letting out heartbreaking cries for help as they stood among the corpses.

As of April 11th this ranch falls within the 20 kilometer evacuation zone enacted by the Japanese government, and is considered to be at risk of reaching radioactive levels significantly higher than those of other areas. As a result, the owner and staff of the ranch have all taken refuge elsewhere, leaving no one to provide the cattle food and water.

We can therefore presume that the cattle are dying of thirst and starvation, though the precise cause of death has yet to be determined.

Normally, the cattle are able to use their nose to push a pedal that releases water at a drinking hole in the barn. However, no water came out when we tried for ourselves, suggesting that the water supply has been stopped.

By coincidence, we ran into some residents of Namie who knew of the situation and had prepared water and a little feed for the cows. However, they said they were only on their way to gather belongings from their home to prepare for evacuation, and that they would be leaving the town within the day.

At this rate, the remaining cows will most likely die within a few days unless someone can come to give them food and water regularly—even so, it is unclear when it will be safe for residents of Namie to return to their homes.

We can understand why the staff, fearing radiation poisoning, would flee and feel it unsafe to come back to tend to their cattle. We have no intentions of blaming the farmers, and understand that people must give priority to their own safety. Still, the sight of these abandoned animals was all too tragic.

Even now, the starving cattle can only wait for whichever comes to greet them first: the humans that abandoned them, or death.

Original author/pictures and video: tachyon

Translation: Steven

For more on our time in Namie and Minamisoma see the following articles:

The following video and photos were taken on scene and contain distressing imagery. Please view at your own discretion.