Whale campaign that made a huge change – overnight!

It’s five years ago to the day that EIA secured what is probably the fastest campaign win in its history when it sought to pressure internet marketplace giant Amazon to end all sales of whale products.

Amazon had previously been unresponsive to our approaches, so we anticipated the likelihood of a fairly lengthy process as we sought to engage the company and persuade it to do the right thing.

With that caveat in mind, on February 21, 2012 our Oceans Campaign, in partnership with Humane Society International, launched its short, tightly focused report Amazon.com’s Unpalatable Profits, accompanied by a hard-hitting 50-second campaign film and a call to customers urging Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to stop selling whale meat.

An EIA survey in December 2011 found 147 whale products for sale on Amazon Japan, including fin, sei, minke and Bryde’s whales – all species protected by the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which forbids international trade.

Further, several companies on Amazon Japan were selling endangered fin whale imported from Iceland and others offered pilot whale and other whale or dolphin species from Japan’s infamous Taiji drive hunts.

EIA investigators purchased eight whale products from Amazon Japan in 2011, including canned whale meat, whale jerky, whale bacon and whale stew. Analysis revealed six with mercury levels exceeding the Japanese national limit for mercury in seafood of 0.4 parts per million (ppm) and one had a staggering mercury level of 20ppm, about 50 times the safe limit.

Worldwide publicity followed the report launch, along with tens of thousands of people around the world taking action via Twitter, Facebook, an online petition and protest emails.

To our delight and amazement, Amazon showed a remarkably progressive attitude and in less than 24 hours had responded to the report and protests by announcing a ban on all products derived from whales, dolphins or porpoises..

This was an incredible result, not just because of the speedy turnaround but also because Amazon chose to respond in such a responsible manner.

It shows just how much can be achieved in a very short time by a small organisation with a clear goal, effectively closing off a significant marketplace for whale products in less than a day.

Subsequently, EIA’s Oceans Campaign targeted similar campaigns against Yahoo! Japan, Google and Rakuten over their involvement with whale meat sales. We were again pleased to see both Google and Rakuten withdraw cetacean products from sale, although Yahoo! Japan remains a stubborn hold-out and is the last significant online marketplace for whale and dolphin meat.

It’s unfortunate that Yahoo! Japan won’t show the same degree of responsibility as Amazon and the others in respect of the environment and its customers’ health – but we will nevertheless persist in seeking to pressure the company to end all cetacean meat sales.