Japan Prefers Pets to Parenthood? Gag-worthy Journalism From Ruth Evans & Roland Buerk

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    On Friday, the Guardian printed a new wacky Japan article: “Why Japan prefers pets to parenthood” (cached copy here).

    As Japan’s birthrate plummets, the estimated worth of its pet industry has risen to $10bn, with pampered pooches enjoying holidays at hot spring resorts, yoga classes and designer clothes

    As the headline and blurb suggest, authors Ruth Evans and Roland Buerk suggest that Japanese are spending more money on pets as an alternative to having children. Evans and Buerk mix information about Japan’s declining birthrate with anecdotes from Japanese pet owners. Japanese love their pets like they love children, and they spend a lot of money on their pets…so Japanese prefer pets to parenthood?

    One of the major pillars on which the authors build their claim is “startling” data about pet ownership in Japan:

    Startlingly, in a country panicking over its plummeting birthrate, there are now many more pets than children. While the birthrate has been falling dramatically and the average age of Japan’s population has been steadily climbing, Japan has become a pet superpower. Official estimates put the pet population at 22 million or more, but there are only 16.6 million children under 15.

    Reddit.com’s /r/Japan forum has torn the article to shreds. User itcouldbe did some quick googling and to compare Japanese pet ownership data to the data from the United States and United Kingdom. Startlingly, those two “normal” countries have far more pets than children:

    • The U.S. ratio of kids to pets is 63 kids to 173 pets (about 1 kid to 3 pets)
    • The UK ratio of kids to pets is 11 kids to 27 pets (about 1 kid to 2.5 pets)
    • The Japanese ratio of kids to pets is 17 kids to 22 pets (about 1 kid to 1 pet)
      • The conclusion: “Wow, so the Guardian article should be ‘Why Does the UK hate kids so much’?

        The authors of the article seem oblivious of the fact that people in many countries treat pets like members of their families and pamper as if they were children. Most of the services mentioned in the articles: pet hotels, temples for pet funerals & burial, pet spas, and pet diapers – are hardly unique to Japan’s pet industry. All can be found in the United States, where the pet industry has steadily grown from 17 billion dollars in 1994 to nearly 53 billion dollars in 2012.

        Here are a few more reactions from Redditors:

        Is the Guardian becoming the new Daily Mail? What utter nonsense.” – PA55W0RD

        I usually like the Guardian, but everything they write about Japan really disappoints me. I think they should stick to writing about UK issues.” -Ms_moonlight

        Majorly groan-worthy article. The idea of wacky Japan is catnip for trashy journalism like this.” – Adamukun (of Mutantfrog.com)

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