Major Online Retailer Under Fire for Selling Ivory and Whale Meat

According to a new report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in conjunction with Humane Society International (HSI) one of the world’s largest online retailers is helping to facilitate sales not only of ivory, but also of meat from dolphins and endangered whales.

The trade in ivory has led to a dangerously high levels of poaching that continues to threaten the future survival of elephants, while hunting whales and small cetaceans has raised serious ethical concerns, along with worries about the safety of their mercury-laden meat and unsustainable hunting practices.

The report,”Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales,” exposed Rakuten Ichiba, Japan’s version of, for carrying thousands of products made from elephants, dolphins and endangered whales, in addition to outlining the problems with ineffective regulations for these products. The Tokyo-based company also owns several other retail sites — including Rakuten Shopping, which was formerly in the U.S., in Britain, PriceMinister in France, and Canadian e-book reader Kobu — and is a major shareholder in Pinterest.

As of February, Rakuten featured 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products, in addition to an estimated 1,200 for whale meat. According to the report, the items found included musical instruments, accessories and chopsticks, among other items made from ivory, while over 95 percent of the products available were name seals, or ‘hankos,’ which are used by individuals and companies to sign documents with their signatures engraved into the ivory. Prices for ‘hard’ ivory products, which are made from Central Africa’s endangered forest elephants, went for as much as $8,000 (USD).

A ban on the elephant ivory trade went into effect in 1989 when African elephants were listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Appendix I, but conservationists believe the success of the ban was undermined by two legalized sales in 1999 and 2008 and the continued sales of pre-ban ivory.

Global outcry and efforts to stop poaching are rendered pointless with these legalized sales. Even with the destruction of ivory stockpiles around the world and global partnerships to help end poaching, confusion over the legalized sales of pre-ban ivory and the difficulty determining its origins have left the door open for poachers to get their illegal products on the market.

According to the report, by 2013 the number of African elephants poached annually to supply the illegal ivory trade was estimated to be as many as 50,000 animals, or as much as one sixth of Africa’s remaining elephants. Meanwhile, forest elephants, a distinct and rarer species, were decimated by 65 percent between 2002 and 2013. By other estimates, these amazing giants could disappear from the landscape entirely in a decade if drastic measures aren’t taken to stop the slaughter, trafficking and demand. This week, a leading conservationist called the illegal trade in Kenya a national disaster.

The company is also perpetuating both large and small-scale whale and dolphin hunts and endangering the public by selling mercury-laden products, in addition to supporting Iceland’s continued illegal hunting of endangered fin whales by selling imported meat.

EIA and HSI are now urging Rakuten to follow in the steps of Amazon and Google, which have shut down sales and ads for whale, dolphin and ivory products through their Japanese e-commerce sites, by enacting a corporate-wide policy banning the sale of products derived from these animals.

“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,” said EIA President Allan Thornton in a statement.

How You Can Help

Please also sign and share the petition asking the U.S. to do its part by banning all ivory sales.

You can send the company a message on its Facebook pages for Rakuten and Rakuten Shopping, or send the following message via Twitter:

@rakutenshopping: Please stop selling #elephant #ivory & #whale meat #NoRakutenBloodMoney

For more information on how to help support efforts and to get campaign posters to share, visit the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia H3 years ago

I have stopped buying products from countries that do horrible stuff like this. Hit them in their pockets...that will hurt the most!!!

Christine Robertson

For a culture that holds honour in such high regard they are dishonourable human beings!

Marion Zerrenthin

A Japanese e-commerce company, well colour us shocked....not :(
It's about time that Japan learns that the illegal whaling and dealing in parts of endangered species does not a civilized county make!!!
Same goes for almost all of Asia.
Over the past decade I've become very conscious of where the products I purchase are made and I am buying less and less products made in any country in Asia.
Yes it's difficult, but it is possible to boycott these countries and at the same time keeping your money in Your own economies pockets.

Steve Yakoban
Steve Yakoban3 years ago

It's like there's too Japanese cultures, the one everyone thinks they know and the real one. Many animal atrocities there. Of course their gov't supports whaling so what would you expect. Watch The Cove - boycott anything Japanese.

Steve Yakoban
Steve Yakoban3 years ago

It's like there's too Japanese cultures, the one everyone thinks they know and the real one. Many animal atrocities there. Of course their gov't supports whaling so what would you expect. Watch The Cove - boycott anything Japanese.

Judie B.
Judie B3 years ago

They should be fined out of business! And the proceeds from those fines should go to animal conservation.

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

Shame!! Signed and twitted

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

Petition signed