Barcelona's new sponsor Rakuten, announced this week to great fanfare by the club, has a darker side, little known outside its home country of Japan - the company allows the sale of ivory on its website, and, also has whale meat available for sale, despite saying in 2014 it would no longer allow it to be sold.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a UK based pressure group, has denounced Rakuten in the past and has now called on Barça to put pressure on their new sponsor.
Whale meat available for sale on Rakuten's site
Rakuten announced in 2014 that it would prohibit the sale of whale and dolphin meat after a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordering Japan to stop its annual hunt in the Antarctic. Japan took one season off from hunting, before restarting their whaling activity. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Japan is is looking to slaughter 3,700 whales in the North Pacific, as well as 4,000 in the Southern Ocean under its latest 12-year programme.
The sale of the whale meat from what Japan calls whaling for scientific purposes is still legal in Japan and such products are available on the Rakuten Japan website.
Japan has biggest global ivory market
Rakuten allows the sale of ivory on its website. The ivory trade is not prohibited in Japan, with the EIA estimating it is the largest market for elephant ivory in the world. The online sale of ivory has seen demand soar, incentivising illegal hunting of the animals.
A EIA spokesperson, talking to British newspaper the Mirror, said that Rakuten had refused to stop selling ivory, despite the wholesale slaughter of elephants for the ivory trade. They also pointed out that other major markets, such as China, had taken steps to shut down their domestic ivory trade.
"Barcelona is in a position to help stop the elephant slaughter by persuading its sponsor Rakuten to stop allowing elephant ivory products to be sold via its online marketplace", said the EIA spokesperson.
EIA pleads with Barça to pressure Rakuten
Rakuten's activities in Japan aren't illegal, with both the sale of ivory and whale meat allowed, however the EIA has asked Barça to use its new relationship with the company to seek for an end to the sale of these products, which come from the slaughter of some of the planet's most magnificent animals.
Rakuten argues that the company follows all local and relevant international laws on animals and wildlife.