Japanese company withdraws fin whale 'jerky' pet treats
TOKYO: The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Iruka & Kujira [Dolphin & Whale] Action Network (IKAN) welcome a Japanese company’s decision to stop selling pet treats made from endangered fin whales.
The four organisations yesterday expressed dismay that Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf was exporting fin whale meat to Japan where it was being manufactured into dog snacks.
The press release highlighted Japanese pet food company Michinoku Farms, which sold imported Icelandic fin whale ‘jerky’ as pet treats.
However, within hours of the release Michinoku Farms removed the products from sale.
Takuma Konno, President of Michinoku Farms, was reported by international news agency AFP as stating that his company was selling a product that was legal in Japan but would nevertheless be withdrawing the jerky from sale.
“Maybe I was ignorant of the debate (about whaling), but it’s not worth selling the product if it risks disturbing some people,” he said.
Icelandic fin whale has been sold in Japan for human consumption since 2008, but its use in pet food suggests that new markets are being explored. Iceland is currently preparing to hunt more than 180 fin whales in 2013 for this export market.
Speaking on behalf of the four NGOs, Susan Milward, Executive Director of the US-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) stated: “We are extremely pleased to see Michinoku Farms respond in such a progressive, compassionate and prompt manner and we would strongly urge all other businesses to follow suit and end such sales.
“We reiterate our dismay that Icelandic company Hvalur hf and its director Kristján Loftsson continue to flout two international conventions in order to slaughter endangered fin whales, and further stress the need for internet retailers such as Rakuten – now owner of Play.com – to take more responsibility for the products they market.”
AWI: Susan Millward, [email protected] + 1 202-640-9606
EIA: Paul Newman [email protected] +44 (0)207 3547960
IKAN: Nanami Kurasawa: [email protected] +81 3 5912 6772
WDC: Danny Groves [email protected] +44 (0) 1249 449 534
1. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986. Iceland, a major commercial whaling nation, left the IWC in 1991 in protest over the decision but rejoined in 2001 with a controversial reservation exempting it from the ban. It resumed so-called scientific whaling in 2003 and commercial whaling under its reservation in 2006. Since 2003, it has killed 496 minke whales and 280 endangered fin whales, and has exported over 2,800 tonnes of whale products to Japan. Although Hvalur hf, Iceland’s fin whaling company, did not hunt fin whales in 2011 and 2012, director Kristján Loftsson announced recently that it will kill up to 184 this summer, starting in June. Fin whales are categorized as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Michinoku offered the dried fin whale pet treats in various package sizes; 60 grams (for ¥609 (US$5.97/£3.89), 200g ¥1680 (US$16.49/£10.74) and 500g ¥3780 (US$37.13/£24.18). The product description identified the meat as being fin whale of Icelandic origin.
However, as is the case with sales of whale meat for human consumption in Japan, it appears that the market for Icelandic whale meat pet treats is poor. For example, in mid-April, the Dingo pet store in Tokyo dropped prices on the 200g package of the Icelandic whale pet snack from ¥1680 to ¥1470 (US$14.45/₤9.40) labeling the product as a “bargain article.” In addition, Rakuten, the massive Japanese e-commerce website which owns Play.com, is selling the Michinoku Farms Icelandic fin whale meat dog treats in 50g and 250g packages, again at discounted prices.
Screenshots of the products for sale are available upon request.
2. The Animal Welfare Institute, headquartered in Washington DC, was founded in 1951 and is dedicated to alleviating suffering inflicted on animals by humans. www.awionline.org
3. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and US-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (UK registered charity number 1145359) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals. In the UK http://eia-international.org & in the US http://eia-global.org
4. Iruka & Kujira Action Network (IKAN) was established in 1996 to promote protection and better understanding of dolphins and whales in Japanese waters. The network was organized by various interest groups including animal welfare, animal protection, anti-whaling, and dolphin conservation. http://ika-net.jp/en/
5. WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (formerly WDCS) is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. We defend these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue. Our vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free. www.whales.org
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