Japan’s Answer to Amazon Is a One-Stop Shop for Ivory and Whale Meat

The World
How It Works
March 20 2014 1:52 PM

Japan’s Answer to Amazon Is a One-Stop Shop for Ivory and Whale Meat

166368319-this-file-photo-taken-on-june-16-2010-shows-a-sushi
Whale sushi made from a lump of minke meat and pieces of blubber is served in the Japanese whaling town Ayukawahama, Miyagi prefecture.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce marketplace and often described as one of Amazon’s major global competitors, is also one of the world’s leading purveyors of endangered species products, according to the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

A report released by the group this week found that “a search for ‘whale meat’ on www.rakuten.co.jp yielded 773 whale products for sale, while the broader term ‘whale’ generated over 1,200 food products.” Meanwhile, “searches for ‘ivory’ on www.rakuten.co.jp yielded more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products.”

Advertisement

Despite international condemnation, the hunting of whales for food continues in Japan thanks to a legal loophole that allows a limited amount of whaling for “scientific” purposes. As the report shows, much of this scientific research in fact ends up as whale steaks, whale jerky, and whale curry.

As for ivory, 95 percent of the products for sale on the site were hankos, “used by individuals and companies to sign documents with their signatures engraved into the ivory.” Much of this ivory likely comes from illegal elephant hunting in central Africa—a practice with some serious consequences for humans as well as elephants. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.