Exposed - World's biggest seller of ivory and whale meat

| 18th March 2014
Minke whale meat for sale on Rakuten -
Minke whale meat for sale on Rakuten -
Japanese retail giant Rakuten is exposed today as the world's biggest online marketplace for elephant ivory and whale meat products.
The company's Japanese website carries more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products and some 1,200 whale meat products ads.

An investigation has revealed that online retail giant Rakuten's Japanese website carries more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products and some 1,200 whale meat products ads.

The findings come in a new report - Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten's profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales - released today by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Humane Society International (HSI).

Up to 50,000 African elephants are poached each year in a worsening crisis to satisfy the demand for ivory from Japan and China.

EIA and HSI research identified over 90% of the ivory products sold on Rakuten Japan as "hanko" - name seals used to sign official documents. Large amounts of ivory hanko are known to have been produced from illegal ivory in Japan.

EIA President Allan Thornton said: "Rakuten's ads are effectively as deadly as giving bullets to elephant poachers and harpoons to whalers. Rakuten must act immediately to ban all ads selling elephant and whale products or its global brand will be irrevocably tainted with the ongoing mass slaughter of these species."

Japan the eco-villain

Blood e-Commerce outlines how Japan's ivory control regulations have failed to comply with requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to control raw ivory tusks and worked ivory "with demonstrably effective enforcement."

Japanese hunters continue to slaughter internationally protected whale species, and the country imports the meat of endangered fin whales from Iceland.

Large numbers of small whales and dolphins are hunted around the Japanese coast, which often contain high levels of toxic mercury. Eight of nine products offered for sale on Rakuten were tested by an independent lab and found to contain dangerous levels of toxic mercury.

Rakuten under fire

Internationally ambitious, the company owns Rakuten Shopping (formerly in the US, in the UK, PriceMinister in France. It also owns shopping sites in Germany, Austria, Brazil and other countries, Canadian e-book reader Kobu and popular chat app Viber, as well as being a major shareholder in Pinterest.

HSI Vice president Kitty Block said: "We call on Rakuten subsidiaries in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Austria and elsewhere to urgently press Rakuten headquarters in Japan to ban all ads offering ivory and whale products."

Clare Perry, head of EIA's Cetaceans Campaign, added: "Rakuten's claim to be committed to policies seeking to 'protect the environment' can only be cynical lip-service as long as it banks the profits of products derived from threatened or endangered species."

Action: Tell Rakuten to end elephant & whale sales.

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