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Google promotes online sales of elephant & whale products

Internet giant fails to enforce its own policies


LONDON / WASHINGTON DC: Environmentalists today appealed to internet giant Google to remove thousands of advertisements from its Japanese Shopping site which promote products for sale from endangered whale and elephant species.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) wrote to Google CEO Larry Page on February 22, requesting immediate removal of over 1,400 ads that promote whale products and as many as 10,000 ads that promote elephant ivory products on Google Japan’s Shopping site.

The ads are contrary to Google’s own policies. To date, the company has not responded or taken down the ads offering endangered wildlife products for sale.

Google’s Shopping site restrictions confirm: “Elephant ivory – Not Allowed – Google doesn’t allow the promotion of elephant ivory” and “Whale products  – Not Allowed  – Google doesn’t allow the promotion of whale products including bones, meat or oil”. These restrictions are the same on Google’s wholly owned Japanese site.

“Google has laudable policies that prohibit the promotion of endangered wildlife products including whale, dolphin and elephant ivory, but sadly these are not being enforced and that’s devastating for whales and elephants,” said EIA President Allan Thornton. “While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants and whales.”

This startling discovery comes as 178 nations gather in Thailand for an important meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a meeting faced with overwhelming evidence that elephants are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands annually to fuel Asian demand for illegal ivory.

A search for elephant products yields around 10,000 ads on Google Japan’s Shopping site promoting elephant ivory for sale. About 80 per cent of the elephant ivory ads are for ‘hanko’, Japanese name seals used to affix signatures to documents. Hanko sales, a major demand-driver for elephant ivory, have contributed to the wide-scale resumption of elephant poaching across Africa.

An estimated 35,000 African elephants are now being illegally killed for their tusks each year.

Clare Perry, head of EIA’s Cetaceans Campaign, said: “Google Japan Shopping is promoting the sale of a huge variety of products from threatened and endangered whale species.  These range from endangered fin whales killed in Iceland to products taken from animals killed off Taiji, where the infamous dolphin kills featured in the Oscar-winning film The Cove take place. Google must immediately eliminate all such trade.”

Other products promoted on the Google Japan Shopping site are from sperm, Bryde’s, sei, minke and pilot whales.

EIA is appealing to Google CEO Larry Page to ensure that all Google promotions of ads for whale, dolphin and elephant ivory products on Google Shopping sites are immediately and permanently removed, and that Google remains vigilant in enforcing this policy in the future.


For further information, contact:
• Allan Thornton, President, EIA US via [email protected]
• Clare Perry, Head of Cetaceans Campaign, EIA UK via [email protected] or +34 664348821.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. Google is one of the world’s most successful and valuable technology companies in the world. Google’s Shopping sites allow vendors who register with the company to post ads that promote products for sale.

3. EIA surveyed Google Japan Shopping site from February 4-22, 2013 to analyse approximately 1,400 ads offering whale products for sale and about 10,000 ads offering ivory products for sale.

4. Google Shopping site policies on endangered species prohibit promotion of whale, dolphin and elephant ivory products and are posted both in English and in Japanese.

5. See US website:
See Japanese website:

6. EIA couriered a letter on February 22, 2013 to Google CEO Larry Page and copied to Google Senior Vice Presidents for Communications and Policy and for Legal Counsel, providing screenshots of Google Japan Shopping site ads promoting both whale and ivory products for sale and requesting immediate action to remove the ads promoting all such products.

7. To date no response has been received from Google and neither the whale or ivory products have been removed from the Google Japan Shopping site.

8. Japan is one of the largest consumers of elephant ivory and demand from Japan and China has fuelled intensified poaching. Japan continues to commercially hunt great whales in violation of the international ban on such catches. Japan also allows commercial hunting of numerous threatened and declining dolphin and porpoise species around its coast.


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960