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Rejected ballots toss a referendum topsy turvy

Date Posted: 2008-05-02

A community decision on whether to permit cattle to be raised on Izena Island was to be settled by a weekend referendum, but a one-vote margin and more than two dozen spoiled ballots has left the topic unsettled.

Izena Village was split on whether to permit a company to import 2,000 cows to the island, or to reject it on pollution grounds. The Sunday referendum was 461-460 in favor of approval, but there were also 26 votes rejected because of ballot problems.

Both sides are claiming victory, and the mayor says “It’s really a hard situation now.” The mayor favored permitting the cattle, but says “the plan is now completely blank. We don’t know what to do.” He says there will be discussions with a variety of people before deciding what to do.

Supporters advocated permitting the cattle in the Uchibana area, while opponents argued against it because it would disturb villagers’ natural lives. “We need clean ocean air,” opponents challenged, saying the cows would bring “bad dung smells and overflowing sewage.”

“We are proud to breed Japanese Wagiyuu cattle,” say supporters. “Waagiyuu is an expensive breed that will also provide organic fertilizers from the excrement, making sugar cane and vegetables better.” The mayor is still clinging to the hope an agreement between the two factions can be brokered, saying the stock farm will provide cattle sales to the mainland, meaning more money for the village.

Opponents warn, however, that the mayor must not go against their wishes. If he does, they say, they’ll never forgive him. The anti-cattle faction has even threatened to break away and form a separate village, leaving the mayor in a quandary.

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