Fukushima Cattle Farmer Refuses to Euthanize His Radioactive Cows

Once prized for food, irradiated wagyu bovine are now condemned by the Japanese government.

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tagged cows grazing in stalls

One of ten "rebel farmers", 69-year-old Yukio Yamamoto is defying Japanese government orders to euthanize his 36 black-haired wagyu cows. They were irradiated last March after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images)

Every other day, 69-year-old farmer Yukio Yamamoto makes the six-hour drive through the eerie 930-acre region known as the “no go” zone that surrounds the doomed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan.

Despite government orders to euthanize his once-prized but now contaminated 36 wagyu cows with lethal injections, Yammammato continues to feed them, reports The Guardian.

Healthy wagyu cows fetch $10,000 at auction for their high-quality beef. But after the disaster, the glamorous bovines have become tainted and useless—at least in the eyes of the Japanese government.

“Straight after the disaster, my cows had nothing to eat or drink…many of them starved to death right where they were tethered,” said Yamamoto. “I had to decide whether to leave the ones still alive or keep them healthy, even though we were separated.”

Yamamoto must rely on private donations to keep his treasured herd alive. He hopes that new studies will properly measure the levels of radium in his animals. Although they will never be slaughtered for food, Yamamoto believes the wagyus could have other commercial uses.

“Eventually the feed will run out, and the government has said it will kill every last cow,” said Yamamoto. “But that is something I can’t allow to happen. I could never kill these cows. They are like members of my family.”

On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant endured multiple meltdowns after a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated the region killing 20,000 people.