Owls are the latest cafe attraction in Japan, where the animals are considered lucky. But some activists are trying to get these cafes closed down, saying the living conditions can cross the line into abuse. Eve Johnson reports.
Up close and personal with a fierce predator in Japan. The Owl Village just one of many cafes like it popping up around the country. But animal activists say that behind the warm and fuzzy photo opps is a darker story of abuse. They're calling for the cafes to be shut down. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) REPRESENTATIVE DIRECTOR OF "ANIMAL RIGHTS CENTER," CHIHIRO OKADA, SAYING: "When people think about animal abuse, they think about kicking or hitting. But it isn't limited to that. Confining an animal to a small space is certainly a form of abuse." And it's not just a matter of space. The owls are often tied up and kept awake in bright and noisy conditions during the day when they're supposed to sleep. But some cafes insist they take good care of their star attractions. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MANAGER OF KICHIJOJI "OWL VILLAGE", AYA MATSUDA, SAYING: "Some owl cafes are short staffed and customers are allowed to freely interact with the birds. But here, they have to be accompanied by a staff member who explains how to touch the animals." Owls are a symbol of luck in Japan, which seems to be rather unlucky for some of the birds themselves. Activists say some cafes have put business first, leading to tragedy. One report saying that within a year, seven had died at one cafe alone.