Reported on the 2nd of April, 2023, by a major Japanese newspaper, The Mainichi, the story was quickly picked up by western mainstream media, including the BBC, The Guardian, Sky News and Insider.
The machine was installed at Tazawako Station in November 2022 by local restaurant Soba Goro in an attempt to make bear meat a souvenir and reportedly sells 10 to 15 packs per week.
The comes just months after animal rights campaigners expressed outrage at Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku for selling whale meat in vending machines to “boost consumption”.
The BBC reported that the Japanese government caps the number of bears that can be hunted to 15% of the population, but it is estimated that far more are killed each year as bear parts and bile can be sold for high prices on the black market.
Approximately 10,000 to 15,000 black bears are still living in Japan. Because of habitat destruction, overhunting and poaching, the subspecies are at a high risk of extinction, with experts predicting that they “will likely be gone within the next 100 years”.