Antarctic Minke whale, stock photo
Following a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (a private, non-profit organization), Amazon.com's Japanese language site is no longer selling whale products. The report, "Amazon.com's Unpalatable Profits," details how investigators found 147 whale products for sale on Amazon.co.jp in December of 2011. Amazon.co.jp is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seattle-based Amazon.com, and accounts for up to 15% of the company's annual income. EIA purchased eight whale meat products from Amazon and found that only three were properly labeled with the species, in accordance with Japanese law. Also, six of the eight samples exceeded Japanese limits for mercury contamination. Some of the advertised products included endangered species, listed on CITES Appendix I, which prohibits international trade in those species.
At least one sample included fin whale meat from Iceland. Because fin whales are listed under Appendix I of CITES and both Japan and Iceland are CITES members, this international trade violated the treaty. The sale of mislabeled products and the contaminated products also violated Japanese law. Furthermore, Amazon holds itself to a higher standard, with a policy against illegal wildlife products, including endangered species.
Twenty four hours after EIA and Humane Society International launched a public campaign against Amazon, all whale products have disappeared from the site. In response to a media inquiry, a spokesperson for Amazon stated, "The items you referenced are not available for sale."
The International Whaling Commission has a moratorium on commercial whaling, but Japan claims that its whaling is done for the purposes of scientific research, which is an exception to the moratorium. Japan has been trying to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling, with support from the Obama administration. Iceland continues to hunt whales under an objection to the moratorium.
Not every species of whale is endangered. In the United States, the sale of whale meat is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, regardless of whether a specific species is endangered or threatened.
From an animal rights standpoint, whale meat is no worse than the flesh of cows, pigs or chickens. But when there are laws protecting certain animals because they are endangered or because they are culturally favored, we owe it to those animals to use the tools available to us to protect them.
What you can do: The removal of whale products from the website is not enough. Amazon.com needs to adopt a new policy explicitly prohibiting the sale of whale products. EIA suggests four ways to help the campaign, including contacting Amazon.com Inc CEO Jeff Bezos at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're short on time, use the HSI webform to contact Amazon.com and demand a new policy, here.
H/T to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for tweeting the story.
Steve Allen / Getty Images
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