KUMAMOTO – A video of a horse getting whipped in a traditional festival held last month in the city of Kumamoto has drawn criticism that it was a form of animal abuse.
While some people say the best part of the festival was getting the horses excited by slapping them, groups that took part in the event of Fujisaki Hachimangu, a major shrine, will hold a meeting Wednesday to discuss ways to handle the matter.
The clip, apparently taken Sept. 16 during a break session at the festival parade, showed a man whipping the horse several times.
The horse was seen trying to avoid the whipping and kicking its legs. The video also included the sound of people laughing.
After a television station brought up the video on a program, the Kumamoto municipal government and others received over 250 complaints and criticism. Some people said they felt sorry for the horse and others said that the festival should be discontinued.
The city’s animal protection center has requested the Shinto shrine, which has a history of over 1,000 years, report back on the incident that occurred during the festival’s main event.
Horses decked in decorative gear, which appear at the end of the parade and are offered to the shrine, are the highlight of the parade. Participants get the horses riled up as they walk through the city.
It has been customary to shout at and slap the horses to get the animals agitated and make them appear energetic.
According to the shrine and other sources, the practice was fully established after World War II. They said that in the past, there were times when horses were whipped so hard they ran amok and injured people.
An organization that oversees the groups taking part in the parade, however, has been telling the participants not to whip the horses with whips or sticks or urge the animals to move forward since its establishment in 2010.
Pushing to urge the horses onward was once considered valiant, said Kyozo Inomoto, who heads the organization.
“But how the public views such things has changed,” he said, lamenting over the change in times which has made it necessary to make the festival milder.
According to the organization, the group featured in the video apologized following the uproar and said that it will not participate in next year’s parade.
Inomoto indicated that he will work on preventive measures and expressed regrets, saying that the organization should have done more to prevent such problems.