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A vending machine in a rural city in Akita Prefecture, Japan, has been steadily selling bear meat since last November.

Source: NBC News/YouTube

Soba Goro, a noodle restaurant in Semboku, had the machine installed near the entrance of Tazawako station, where the famed bullet train stops. Tourists, who may not be as familiar with bear meat as those in northern Japan, have been eager to pick up these “souvenirs” while in the area. The machine sells 10-15 packs of lean or fatty bear meat per week and has even received inquiries about mail-order deliveries from people living near Tokyo.

“Bear meat isn’t very common, so we want tourists who come to visit the town to buy it,” said Daishi Sato, the owner of the noodle restaurant, according to NBC News.

The machine is stocked with the body parts of Asiatic black bears, who are listed as a vulnerable species. Local hunters shoot or trap the bears on nearby mountains. The environment ministry believes 3,000 to 7,000 have been killed over the past seven years. Only 15,000 are thought to be left in Japan.

This controversy comes on the heels of Kyodo Senpaku, the largest whaling company in Japan, installing two vending machines selling whale meat in Kyoto earlier this year. The products have thus far been popular with customers, and the firm has already opened up a third location and has plans to open up 100 more over the next five years.

Proponents of bear meat like to point out the increase in bear encounters in recent years, as bears are running out of acorns to eat and wander into cities to find sustenance. From 2009 to 2020, bear encounters have risen by more than 400%. However, this doesn’t justify taking their lives.

“Where wild animals come into conflict with people we should have the compassion and respect to find ethical solutions, and shooting them to put in vending machines is certainly not that,” said Claire Bass, the senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International UK, according to Plant Based News. “Whether it’s bears who’ve been hunted in the mountains or pigs raised on factory farms, killing animals to package up their body parts for a vending machine snack is a sorry state of affairs.”

Hopefully, these vendors and their customers will soon wake up to this fact and instead Support Japan’s increasingly popular plant-based industry.

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