Japanese retail giant Rakuten who own the likes of Play.com and ebook operator Kobo has been exposed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) as the world’s biggest online marketplace for elephant ivory and whale meat products. The EIA in conjunction with Humane Society International (HSI) have issued a joint report “Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter ofelephants and whales” which reveals that Rakuten’s Japanese website carries more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products and some 1,200 whale meat products ads. Japan's controls continue to fail to comply with requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the control of raw ivory tusks and worked ivory
Rakuten is a global retail operator which owns e-book reader Kobo, was formerly Buy.com in the US, owns Play.com in the UK, PriceMinister in France, and has shopping sites in Germany, Austria, Brazil and other countries, owns chat app Viber, and is a major shareholder in Pinterest. However, its Global sales are now being undermined by its Japanese trade in products which are outlawed in the majority of the countries it which operates and earns its revenues.
Up to 50,000 African elephants are poached each year and the EIA claim that Rakuten's actions are worsening the situation and are help drive the demand for ivory from Japan and China. EIA and HSI research identified that over 90% of the ivory products sold on Rakuten Japan as “hanko” which are the name seals used to sign official documents. Large amounts of ivory hanko are known to have been produced from illegal ivory in Japan.
“Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales” also states that ‘Japanese hunters continue to slaughter internationally protected whale species, and the country imports the meat of endangered fin whales from Iceland. Large numbers of small whales and dolphins are hunted around the Japanese coast, which often contain high levels of toxic mercury; eight of nine products offered for sale on Rakuten were tested by an independent lab and found to contain dangerous levels of toxic mercury.’
EIA President Allan Thornton said: “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.”
Would you buy an ebook from someone who has so little regard for endangered species and the environment? Would it pass the ethics code of your or many US and UK companies? Are we all, in supporting the likes of Play.com., Kobo and Pinterest, now getting the blood on our hands?