The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Iruka & Kujira [Dolphin & Whale] Action Network (IKAN) have all expressed dismay at the sale of Icelandic fin whale meat dog treats in Japan.

Although the use of Japanese-caught whale and dolphin meat in pet food in Japan has been well documented, the discovery that Japanese pet food company Michinoku Farms is now producing dog snacks using meat from endangered North Atlantic fin whales, killed by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf, is alarming.

Icelandic fin whale has been sold in Japan for human consumption since 2008, but its use in pet food suggests that new markets are being explored. As Iceland prepares to hunt over 180 fin whales in 2013 for this export market, NGOs question the environmental and economic logic of using meat from an endangered species for the manufacture of dog treats.

Susan Millward, executive director of the US-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said: “Turning an endangered whale species into pet snacks is deplorable and seems to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to keep a cruel and unnecessary industry alive at any cost.”

Clare Perry, EIA senior campaigner, said: “It is grotesque that this Icelandic company is flouting two international conventions in order to feed endangered fin whales to pampered pets in Japan. In the face of such blatant disregard for species conservation and international agreements, internet retailers such as Rakuten need to take more responsibility for the sustainability and acceptability of the products they market, and should follow the example of Amazon and Google, which have banned the sale of all whale products in Japan.”

Chris Butler-Stroud, chief executive of WDC, said: "Sadly, this discovery does not surprise us. Turning beautiful and endangered fin whales into pet treats is utterly repugnant to right-minded people, yet this sort of callous disregard for an intelligent species is no more than we have come to expect from Kristján Loftsson, a man prepared to turn whales into pretty much anything as long as it turns a profit."

Nanami Kurasawa, executive director of the Japanese conservation group IKAN, said: “While IKAN’s research shows that Icelandic whale products now make up some 20 per cent of sales to the Japanese public, we were very surprised and alarmed to find that Icelandic fin whale meat is also being used to make dog treats. The reason that Hvalur hf now has such a large share of the market is because of its cheap price. What the Japanese public must ask ourselves is ‘just because it’s cheap, do our morals allow turning endangered species, which don't belong to Japan, into dog treats and selling them online?’ I, for one, think this is a disgrace.”

Fin Whale (PD)

Fin Whale (PD)

Michinoku Farms is based in Iwate Prefecture. In addition to traditional pet food products, the company offers a wide variety of “exotic” pet foods, everything from Australian kangaroo meat to Mongolian horse meat.

Dog food jerky “treats” made from dried Icelandic fin whale meat were recently discovered for sale on its website.

Kurasawa added: “The most likely reason for shops to sell the whale meat dog treat is to target affluent Japanese who want to show off their wealth with something different. Similarly, there are also pet foods with shark fins and foie gras available in Japan. Buying such pet food is purely human-centric and hardly considers the animals' point of view."

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