Tesco to stop selling whale meat

Posted: 9 November 2004

The supermarket company, Tesco, has decided to stop selling all cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) products in its Japanese supermarkets, following a joint campaign by a group of UK non-government organisations.

As part of a continuing drive to make leading supermarket multinationals aware of the issues related to the hunting of cetaceans by Japan, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WSCS) and Greenpeace called upon the UK's leading retailer to immediately withdraw all whale meat products that were being sold in at least 45 of their supermarkets stores in the Tokyo area.

Tesco was made aware that the Japanese government sanctions the killing of more than 800 whales in the North Pacific and Antarctic, under the guise of 'scientific research', and in direct contravention of the expressed will of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its ban on commercial whaling.

More than 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises are also killed in Japan's coastal waters. A significant percentage of cetacean products on sale in Japan have been shown to be highly polluted, posing a potential health threat to consumers. Many tins of so-called 'whale meat' do, in fact, contain dolphin or porpoise, the agencies claim.

Falling demands

Reporting on Tesco's decision, the groups said that, in meetings with the company, they had demonstrated that there was an increasing concern among Japanese consumers, and that falling prices and growing stockpiles of whale meat indicated a significant decrease in domestic demand for the products. According to Tesco they took the decision "due to a lack of customer demand."

Clare Perry, EIA Cetacean Campaigns Manager said "We are delighted that Tesco has taken the right decision, to stop selling whale products in their Japanese stores. Any involvement in this destructive trade is a tacit support of the Japanese government's refusal to abide by the moratorium oncommercial whaling."

Willie MacKenzie, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, said, "This is an important decision, illustrating clearly that the market for the products of whaling in Japan is dying. This can only have a positive effect on whale conservation. We are certain that the vast majority of Tesco customers will applaud this action."

WDCS Chief Executive, Chris Stroud, said: "Tesco has a responsibility to its customers, in the UK and in Japan. The sale of potentially contaminated whale products is a human health threat, and for this reason alone, Tesco is right to stop selling any such products"

Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling fleet will set sale for the Antarctic later this month to hunt protected minke whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. The NGO groups believe that Tesco's decision will help to reduce the market for these protected species within Japan, ultimately building pressure on Japan to abide by the worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

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