Groups call on Wal-Mart to influence retailer to end sales of whale and dolphin meat in Japan

“WHALE*MART” Report Reveals Wal-Mart's Link to Japan's Market for Whale and Dolphin Meat

provided by The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Greenpeace and The Humane Society of the United States

he Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Greenpeace revealed today that Wal-Mart is intimately linked to the sale of products from Japan's whale, dolphin and porpoise hunts. A new report, 'WHALE*MART', produced by the EIA, details the sale of whale, dolphin and porpoise (cetacean) products by Japan's Seiyu supermarket chain, a company of which Wal-Mart is a major shareholder.

    In 2002, Wal-Mart purchased a 37% stake in Seiyu, Ltd., one of Japan's leading supermarket chains. Seiyu, Ltd. is a major distributor of whale, dolphin and porpoise (cetacean) products.

    Wal-Mart and Seiyu are intimately connected through corporate governance. Five of Wal-Mart's key executives sit on the Seiyu Board of Directors, including the President and Executive Vice President of Wal-Mart's International Division.

    Of 202 Seiyu-owned stores telephoned by a Japanese researcher, 123 confirmed the sale of whale or dolphin meat. In October 2003, EIA carried out an on-site survey of 55 Seiyu group supermarkets, which revealed cetacean products on sale in all but one store on the day of visit.

    According to the labels on the products, Seiyu is selling the meat and blubber from whales caught by Japan's controversial 'scientific' whaling fleet. These whales are protected internationally under the Convention for the International Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Seiyu is also selling products from Japan's coastal hunts for 'small cetaceans' - dolphins, porpoises and small whales - that are killed in the thousands in unregulated and unsustainable hunts around the coast of Japan. Forty of the 55 Seiyu group stores visited by EIA investigators sold 'salted whale meat', sometimes also labeled as small cetacean (dolphin, porpoise or small whale) from Sanriku, the area where the Dall's porpoise hand harpoon hunt takes place.

    Chemical analysis of 36 cetacean products purchased from Seiyu stores revealed that average mercury levels in the products were more than 2.6 times higher than levels allowed under Japan's Food Sanitation Law. Half of the samples exceeded the Japanese Government's guidelines for methylmercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and scientists have found that even low concentrations can cause irreversible damage to nervous systems. The developing fetus and children are at particular risk.

    Wal-Mart plays a vital role in the success of Seiyu within the Japanese market, lending it the necessary corporate experience to enable it to climb the ranks of Japan's retailing market. Wal-Mart's partnership with Seiyu guarantees that the corporate executives of Wal-Mart can influence decisions made at Seiyu.

    Allan Thornton, President of EIA said: “We are appealing to Wal-Mart to use its connections with Seiyu to bring about an end to the sale of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Seiyu stores. As a major shareholder in Seiyu, Wal-Mart's reputation is at stake.”

    Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner, Richard Page said: “Seiyu is selling the products of internationally protected species, and as such is not only sustaining the market for these products in Japan, but is supporting Japan's refusal to abide by the international ban on commercial whaling.”

    Kitty Block, Special Council to the UN and Treaties Department of the HSUS said: “In the absence of effective action by the Japanese Government to protect the health of the Japanese people, it is the responsibility of leading retailers such as Seiyu to provide safe food for its consumers. Public health should not be compromised as a result of Japan's relentless campaign to resume commercial whaling worldwide.”

    EIA's new report linking Wal-Mart to Japan's whale, dolphin and porpoise hunting is available on request or can be downloaded at:

    The Environmental Investigation Agency is a Washington, DC and London, UK based independent, international campaigning organization committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime, and campaigning to protect endangered species and the natural world. The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization, with an international division, and has worked for decades to protect whales. Greenpeace is an international organization that campaigns for the protection of the environment.