Japan whaling
A file photo of workers butchering a Baird\'s Beaked whale at Wada port in Minamiboso, southeast of Tokyo - Reuters

Pampered dogs in Japan are being treated to a special meat made from an endangered whales caught by hunters from Iceland, environmental campaigners have claimed.

The whale snack, described by the manufacturers as "low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein," is made from the North Atlantic fin whales. The company's website says the whale products were processed in Japan.

The Tokyo-based Michinoku Farm has been selling the products, despite sharp criticism from environmental groups.

"The most likely reason for shops to sell the whale meat dog treat is to target affluent Japanese who want to show off their wealth with something different," said the executive director of the Japanese conservation group, Ikan Nanami Kurasawa.

Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986 but Iceland and Norway openly continue the practice. Japan has also been carrying out whaling under the pretext of scientific research.

"The product description identifies the meat as being fin whale of Icelandic origin. Its use in pet food suggests that new markets are being explored. As Iceland prepares to hunt over 180 fin whales in 2013 for this export market, NGOs question the environmental and economic logic of using meat from an endangered species for the manufacture of dog treats," said the joint statement issued by four campaign groups including IKAN.

Along with the whale snacks for dogs, Michinoku Farm, the pet-food manufacturer also sells food products made from spine, lungs and cartilage of Mongolian horses, dry-sliced Kangaroo hearts and pig's oesophagus.

"Dogs are like family members for many people in Japan. We just wanted to sell a wide variety of food for dogs. Campaigners look at whales as important animals, but we consider dogs to be just as important. Maybe I was ignorant of the debate [about whaling], but it's not worth selling the product if it risks disturbing some people," Takumo Konno, president of the Michinoku Farm told the AFP news agency.