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Abe's statements on controversial vet school contradict experts

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen at a House of Councillors session on June 7, 2017. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statements on a plan for a school corporation run by a close friend to establish a veterinary school in Ehime Prefecture contradict testimony provided by key figures in the vet community.

Regarding the government's deregulation aimed at allowing the establishment of veterinary schools in areas where such schools do not exist, the prime minister denied the government gave any favorable treatment to the Okayama-based school operator, Kake Educational Institution.

"We didn't try to limit the number of schools to one in favor of Kake Educational Institution. We took the (Japan) Veterinary Medical Association's cautious views into consideration in making the decision. We received such a request from the association," Abe told a June 5 session of the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration. The prime minister was referring to the government's decision this past January to permit the establishment of just one veterinary school.

However, the association denied making any such request saying, "That's not true."

Naoto Kitamura, a former ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member of the House of Representatives and currently adviser to the association, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The Veterinary Medical Association has never asked the government to allow the establishment of a veterinary school only in areas where such schools don't exist."

In 2014, the association adopted a resolution opposing the establishment of any new university veterinary department on the grounds that a further increase in the number of such schools "would intensify competition for securing teachers and run counter to efforts to improve the quality of veterinary education."

The organization also submitted a document to education minister Hirokazu Matsuno in October 2016, stating that even if a veterinary school was set up in the Shikoku region, it would not lead to resolving the shortage of veterinarians.

While pointing out that there are some regions short of veterinarians, the document said, "The total number of veterinarians across the country is sufficient. It is necessary to improve the treatment of those who completed veterinary school education."

However, the government's Council on National Strategic Special Zones decided in November 2016 to permit the establishment of veterinary schools in areas where such schools do not exist. The Cabinet Office and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued a notice on Jan. 4, 2017, that the establishment of only one such school will be permitted.

Isao Kurauchi, president of the association, has criticized the process for approving a plan by the Kake institution to establish a veterinary school in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, which the government has designated as part of a national strategic special economic zone.

"We tried to persuade the government to withdraw, if possible, its decision to permit the establishment of veterinary schools, and if that's impossible, to limit the number of new schools to just one," Kurauchi recalls in his Jan. 30 email magazine. "The decision is too hasty and full of contradictions."

In areas designated by the government as national strategic special economic zones, regulations are significantly relaxed to spur local economic growth.

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