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Dog Treats Made With Endangered Fin Whale Meat Cause Dismay

May 28, 2013 12:00 PM EDT
A dog about to eat a treat.
The Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule Friday designed to ensure the safety of food for animals and, by extension, their owners.

(Photo : Flickr / Daniel Gipps /Zeshiku)

A Japanese online food distributor is facing international criticism for selling luxury dog treats made with meat from fin whales killed by an Icelandic whaling company.

Michinoku Farms is reportedly selling the whale meat dog treats as a "low calorie, low fat, high protein" snack for dogs, according to the AFP and several conservation groups. The company also sells a variety of exotic meats for human and animal consumption, including horse, ostrich and various mammal organs. 

NGOs including the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Iruka & Kujira [Dolphin & Whale] Action Network (IKAN) expressed their alarm at the practice.

IKAN said selling frivolous dog treats made from the endangered fin whale is conspicuous consumption.

"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," Nanami Kurasawa, IKAN's executive director, said in a statement

"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."

Michinoku appears to have taken the fin whale dog snacks off of its website, but the AFP reported that the farm sells three different sized packets of whale chews, with a 60 gram (2 oz) bag selling for 609 yen ($6) and a 500 gram bag for 3,780 yen ($37).

Icelandic fin whale has been sold in Japan for human consumption since 2008, and Iceland will hunt 180 fin whales, the second-largest whale in the oceans, for export in 2013, the EIA reported. The agency questioned the "environmental and economic logic" of using meat from an engendered species to make dog treats.

While it is losing popularity, the Japanese have a cultural history of eating whales and many Japanese-caught whales are still eaten in restaurants across Japan. The EIA reports that there is also a history of the country using Japan-caught whale and dolphin meat in treats, but the agency called the use of foreign-caught whale meat as pet food "alarming."

Because of a loophole in an international whaling ban, Japan can hunt whales for "research" purposes. Iceland openly defies the ban, the AFP reported. 

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