One of the most recognizable soy sauce companies in the U.S., Kikkoman, is under fire after PETA
Under the argument that it is necessary to test for product safety, Kikkoman force-feeds fermented soy milk to rats to study the effects, breeds mice to be obese while feeding them citrus extract before removing and studying their muscles, feeds rabbits high-cholesterol diets to induce heart disease before killing and studying them, and pumps soy sauce into the stomachs of rats through surgically attached tubes before decapitating them to study their brains.
In a statement on Kikkoman’s Facebook page, the company states that, “we strictly follow animal welfare laws and official guidelines established in Japan. We pledge to strive for the most compassionate and humane approach possible.” Kikkoman declined to comment to Vice.
While Kikkoman is based in Japan, their products are sold in the U.S. and are therefore subject to FDA regulations. While animal testing isn’t technically required by the FDA, when new additives or health claims are to be added to products, animal testing is still the most common method to regulate for safety, though many ethical and humane tests do exist to specifically test for results in human (not animal) digestive systems and organs. The loophole within FDA standards revolves around the fact that the FDA doesn’t count rodents and birds as animals.
Suzanna Harman, co-founder of the animal rights law firm McDonald & Harman, told Vice, “Most information about animal testing that is readily available is technically wrong, because it is based on data collected by the FDA, and the FDA doesn’t count rodents nor birds in their count of animals.”
But on the issue of testing for product safety alone, McDonald suggests that Kikkoman is going beyond experimentation just for safety, particularly when it comes to testing the health benefits of fermented soy milk (FSM):
“At the beginning of the study, they state that other studies have suggested the health benefits of FSM, showing that it may promote intestinal tract function, and that it may have antimutagenic, and antioxidant properties. They then state that, ‘despite these recent studies, the general physiological effects of FSM remain unknown.’ So, it appears they wanted to study its physiological effects because those have not been tested.”
Of course, tests on rats to determine health consequences in humans isn’t a conclusive way to test for food safety. A past study published in the British Medical Journal suggested that very little to nothing is learned from animal testing.
PETA’s Director of Laboratory Investigations, Justin Goodman, told Vice that animal testing in the modern era is still one of the most barbaric practices companies still do today. “They’re cruel, they’re not required by law, and they are irrelevant to humans.”
PETA now hopes to help Kikkoman “step into the 21st century and [stop] maiming animals to make marketing claims.”