Japan opens owl cafes
Japan has opened a number of owl cafes in which customers can pet the creatures whilst enjoying their lunch.
Following on from the trend of cat cafes - where customers enjoy the company of furry felines whilst eating their lunch or indulging in a hot beverage - Japan have started opening similar sanctuaries for owl lovers.
Owl Village in Tokyo has eight owls, and representative Aya Matsuda says every care has been taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the majestic creatures.
She told Reuters: "Some owl cafés lack enough staff, and customers can freely interact with owls, but in our café, customers are only able to enter the owl room with staff, who explain how to touch the animals or give them a rest when they look tired."
However, Chihiro Okada, an activist with the Animal Rights Centre in Tokyo, claims "confining" the winged animals can constitute animal abuse, and should be stopped.
Chihiro said: "People think of kicking or hitting of animals when we think of animal abuse, but it isn't just limited to that. Confining an animal to a small space is certainly a form of abuse. We were particularly shocked to hear that seven owls died within one year at an owl café."
If managed properly, owl cafes can continue to exist, but work must be done to ensure the safety of the animals.
Veterinarian Nobumoto Izawa said: "(Owl cafés) can exist. But its important to have checks on how they are kept. And more importantly we need to make sure the birds there are happy and not stressed. So I don't think its necessary to say owl cafes should not exist."
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