Iruka & Kujira Action Network, a 26-year-old advocacy and volunteer group for dolphins and whales in Japanese waters, claims that Japan's whaling industry currently has stockpiles of unwanted whale meat that is being offered as pet food ingredients or treats once again.
IKAN for short, the citizen network said sales of fresh whale meat remain relatively strong in Japan, but poor demand for the frozen kind has led whaling companies to repurpose it as pet food.
This is not the first time that ground up whale meat has allegedly ended up in Japan's pet food market. As early as 2003, animal welfare groups were warning pet owners that they could be feeding whale meat to their dogs and cats.
A November 2021 analysis of the Japanese pet food market by Animal Liberation, a non-government organization in Japan, found 34 Japanese companies producing and selling 61 different processed, frozen, freeze-dried or raw products made from sei, minke, and fin whales. More than 50 products were targeted for dogs (raw meat, processed whale meat in pouches, dried jerky, flakes or sprinkles, biscuits, freeze-dried cubes, etc.), and another 10 products were targeted for both dogs and cats. An omega-3 supplement made from whale blubber is also available, IKAN added.
“Japan has resumed commercial whaling, claiming that whaling is a traditional industry, but the use of pet food is clearly not traditional. It is a mistake to continue commercial whaling with such unreasonable use,” said Nanami Kurasawa, executive director of IKAN.
Japan is not the only country using whale meat for pet food. Norway also has its share of Norwegian whalers that last year admitted to supplying whale meat to local pet food companies.Experts say whale meat, just like dolphin meat, is packed with high levels of toxic heavy metals like mercury so it's not recommended to be consumed by people and pets alike. IKAN noted a drop in demand for whale meat during the pandemic but this has not deterred the Japanese government from allocating over 5 billion yen to continue supporting its whaling industry, IKAN said.
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