Kikkoman stops testing soy sauce on animals following PETA campaign

The animal rights group claimed credit for a change in soy sauce maker Kikkoman's testing practices.

Image via the Kikkoman's Kitchen Facebook page
Image via the Kikkoman's Kitchen Facebook page

SAN FRANCISCO: Soy sauce company Kikkoman will no longer conduct animal testing, following a month-long international boycott campaign against its products led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA’s comprehensive social media campaign, which it launched on October 19, called on Kikkoman to stop using mice, rabbits, and rats in "cruel and pointless experiments just to try to make dubious health claims about its products," according to a release the organization sent out last week.

Kikkoman’s reversal comes one day before a planned "provocative protest" organized by PETA and involving naked activists lying in pools of "bloody" soy sauce outside of the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

PETA media manager Tasgola Bruner told PRWeek that the protest was called off after Kikkoman updated its website to reflect that it is now committed to non-animal approaches to test the safety of its products when the company uses biological methods.

"Kikkoman is introducing and developing non-animal testing methods, and conducts no animal testing across any of its product lines," Kikkoman states on its site. "However, on rare occasions, we must do so to be accountable for public safety and to comply with the demands of government authorities in several countries."

A Kikkoman rep was not immediately available to confirm when the website was updated.

"PETA is very pleased that Kikkoman has banned experiments on animals following the launch of our campaign less than a month ago," said Justin Goodman, PETA’s director of laboratory investigations.

Goodman explained that although the campaign against Kikkoman did not launch until October, PETA first contacted the soy sauce company about its animal experiments in January and "repeatedly" followed up with it via phone and email.

"We were hoping to engage them in a productive dialogue, but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen," Goodman said. "When we saw in August a new publication [by the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications journal] come out reporting recent experiments by Kikkoman on animals, we decided it was clear no progress had been made and we needed to ratchet things up a bit."

On October 19, PETA publicly revealed Kikkoman’s "deadly experiments" on animals, and launched an online petition allowing people to send letters directly to the company’s execs urging them to ban animal testing. More than 100,000 consumers signed the petition, Goodman said.

As part of the campaign, PETA’s in-house team also created a spoof of the company’s logo, showing a bottle holding a dead mouse labeled with the phrase "KillaMouse" instead of "Kikkoman."

In addition, PETA produced a video parodying a Kikkoman TV commercial.

Using the hashtag #KikkomanKills, PETA then circulated its campaign materials to its 600,000 Twitter followers and 3 million Facebook followers, urging them to share.

PETA also encouraged the public to buy competing soy-sauce brands that do not conduct animal testing, such as San-J.

Kikkoman did not release a statement in response to PETA’s campaign until October 27. It posted the statement, which defended its practices, on its website and promoted it on Facebook and Twitter.

If there’s something we can say with absolute confidence – it’s that we are committed to the safest and highest quality...

Posted by Kikkoman's Kitchen on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kikkoman’s Facebook post on the matter received more than 700 comments from consumers, mostly criticizing the company for its animal-testing practices.

Kikkoman eventually deleted the tweet it published, containing the same statement, due to negative feedback, Goodman said. 

"The statement [Kikkoman] posted was incredibly misleading because it suggests the experiments they are doing are being done for product safety purposes, but that is not the case," Goodman said. "The experiments are being done to substantiate or evaluate health claims they can use to market their products. They are really being done for sales claims, not for safety."

He added that the FDA has also said experiments for animals are not a suitable basis on which to make health claims and "data has to be coming from humans."

Last week, PETA reached out to supporters on social media and told them to call Kikkoman’s San Francisco office to "express their dismay about their animal testing practices."

The now-cancelled Wednesday protest was also promoted by PETA last week. Goodman said that aside from the naked activists, it would have included a six-foot tall inflatable mock up of the spoof bottle. Similar protests were also planned in other regions where Kikkoman has a presence, including Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.

"Kikkoman joins a growing list of companies—including Ito En, Barilla, The Coca-Cola Company, and Pepsi, Welch's, POM Wonderful, Lipton, and Ocean Spray—that have worked with PETA to end animal tests," Goodman said.

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