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Internet giant Rakuten pulls the plug on whale meat sales

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Internet retail giant Rakuten has announced it is terminating sales of whale products through its Japanese marketplace Rakuten Ichiba and has given merchants 30 days to remove them.

The move came after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), in conjunction with Humane Society International (HSI), launched the report Blood e-Commerce on March 18 exposing Rakuten as the world’s biggest online marketplace for elephant ivory and whale meat products, and the day after UN International Court of Justice ruled against Japan’s fraudulent ‘scientific’ whaling in the Antarctic.

EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry said: “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.”

But EIA President Allan Thornton added: “Japan is awash with illegal ivory trade and Rakuten’s thousands of ivory ads help fuel the mass slaughter of elephants across Africa. We appeal to Rakuten to help protect elephants by immediately banning all ads for ivory products.”

As well as Rakuten Ichiba, the company owns Rakuten Shopping (formerly Buy.com) in the US, Play.com in the UK, PriceMinister in France, shopping sites in Germany, Austria, Brazil and other countries, Canadian e-book reader Kobo and popular chat app Viber, as well as being a major shareholder in Pinterest.

Rakuten’s statement, posted on its website, yesterday read: “In accordance with the March 31, 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice, Rakuten Ichiba today asked merchants to cancel sales of whale meat products on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace. Rakuten has also requested these merchants to remove all related items from their online shops within the next 30 days.”

HSI Vice president Kitty Block said: “This is a good step for protecting whales and dolphins but Rakuten must take the next step and ban ivory ads to help protect Africa’s elephants.”

Interviews are available on request; please contact:
• EIA UK – Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner, via clareperry@eia-international.org or telephone +34 664 34 8821
• EIA US – Allan Thornton, President, on + 1 202 483 6621
• HSI – Raul Arce-Contreras, Senior Public Relations Specialist, on + 1 301 721 6440

EDITORS’ NOTES

  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and Washington DC-based Non-Governmental Organization 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.

  2. Humane Society International (HSI) and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide. On the web at hsi.org.

  3. Read and download the report Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales here.

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