While animal welfare activists open our eyes to wildlife wellbeing, attitudes are beginning to shift as people shop for ethical meat or go vegan.
Yet few are willing to go the extra mile and put animal health before their own.
That’s why the story of Naoto Matsumura is so extraordinary, aka the Dr Doolittle of Fukushima.
Not only does Naoto care for an army of feral cats, dogs, and other homeless animals, he does so in the small Japanese town of Tomioka – inside of Fukushima’s exclusion zone.
In 2011, the area suffered a huge disaster triggered by a nuclear plant explosion following a horrifying earthquake and tsunami.
At the time, residents were urged to leave their homes as radiation was everywhere (in the water, soil and food) which posed a huge risk to health.
Following guidelines, Naoto did as he was told. However, with nowhere else to go, he soon returned to his town where he remains to this day as a lone resident in the region.
Back home, Naoto discovered many pets had been abandoned by his neighbours in their panic to escape quickly and so he began caring for them.
Now, he has become somewhat of a Pied Piper for them, looking after domestic pets and also cattle, pigs and ostriches from the farms after their owners also fled.
Reflecting on the situation, Naoto revealed that his neighbours’ dogs were still tied up when he returned as those who left assumed they would be home in a week rather than leave permanently.
Naoto said: “From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck.
“Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or ‘we don’t have any food’. So, I just kept making the rounds.”
While Naoto remains the only human living inside the 12-mile radius of the exclusion zone, meaning he is continually exposed to radiation, he is still going strong at 60-years-old.
He survives on relief food delivered from the outside and drinks spring water that has been checked for contamination, while using solar panels to power his computer and mobile.
What a hero.