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Rakuten stops selling whale meat, but will still sell thermometers

ByAngela Erika Kubo

Apr 3, 2014


Following the March 31st ruling at the International Court of Justice in which Japan was ordered to stop its practice of hunting whales, the country’s largest e-commerce website, Rakuten, announced that it would ban the sale of whale meat on its website, Kyodo News first reported.

The company requested that all merchants who sell whale meat remove the items from their online shops within the next 30 days.

Despite an international ban on whale hunting, Japan continues to hunt whales under the guise of scientific research. Much of the meat ends up on restaurant menus, super markets, and souvenir shops. Rakuten boasts a large market of whale meat products. You can order less than a kilo of thick, red slices of whale sashimi for around ¥3, 240 ($32) or even slices of whale bacon that can be shipped straight to your doorstep

“The removal of thousands of ads for whale products is a very welcome step and a clear recognition by Rakuten that selling the meat of endangered and protected whales and dolphins is seriously harmful to both its global reputation and customers’ health,” said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA),

The EIA had published a report on March 18th titled Blood e-Commerce, which investigated Rakuten’s profits from allowing the sales of whale meat and ivory on its website. The report revealed that a June 2013 search for “whale meat” on Rakuten Japan revealed 773 products for sale, while a broader search for “whale” generated 1, 200 hits. The International Whaling Commission protects all the species that the meat was derived from—minke, sei, and Bryde. The report also discovered that the whale and dolphin meat being sold on the website contained high levels of mercury.

Although Kyodo News reports that Rakuten’s new policy covers the sale of whale and dolphin meat, in addition to other parts such as skin, bones, and appendages, there’s no news on what the company will do about the large market of elephant ivory on its website. Or the meat of endangered seals and sea lions, which are packaged in cans of tasty curry.


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