A vending machine that sells fresh bear meat has proved a surprising hit with customers, according to reports.
Located near a railway station in Akita, a northern prefecture in Japan, the machine has sold the animal meat since November of last year.
Costing ¥2,200 (£13) per 250g, the meat comes from bears killed by a hunting club in nearby mountains. According to local media, the hunters were allowed to kill a certain number of animals during hunting season. The machine is said to sell a range of lean and fatty meat.
As reported by the Guardian, the machine was set up after a local restaurant named Soba Goro “spied an opportunity” to use the meat as a tourist attraction.
The vending machine has attracted a number of customers, many of whom visit after alighting from a nearby railway station. It’s thought that bear consumption is generally high in the area, with people often buying it in cans or instant curry.
Animal rights groups slam the move
The vending machine has drawn criticism from some in the animal rights community, however.
“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,” Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, told 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.
“With the alt-protein industry booming in Japan, companies like the one selling bear meat should look at more humane and sustainable vegan options in their vending machines as a more ethical and future-proof business proposition.“
Bear meat consumption
While bears aren’t generally animals we associate with meat, their flesh is consumed in many parts of the world, including North America and Europe, as well as Japan.
A spokesperson for Soba Goro told local newspaper Mainichi Shimbun that bear meat “tastes clean, and it doesn’t get tough.”