WWF on the defensive
By Mike Urch, SeafoodSource contributing editor
25 June, 2012
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claims to be against all forms of censorship and says it protects the right of free opinion, and yet it is fighting tooth and nail to silence public criticism of the organization in Germany.
In June 2011, the German TV station ARD broadcast a documentary entitled “The Silence of the Pandas: What WWF isn’t saying.” The film was made by journalist Wilfried Huismann, who then published a book last month, again in Germany, called “Schwarzbuch WWF: Dunkle geschäfte im zeichen des panda” (“Black Book WWF: Shady deals under the sign of the panda”).
In both instances, Huismann accuses WWF of not being as “green” as it would like everyone to believe. On 25 May, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the biggest newspaper by circulation in the south of Germany, published a review of the book and said in it Huismann lists five major examples of questionable practices.
These range from big game hunting, where Huismann says WWF has been involved in the mass eviction of natives to create national parks for wild animals, to WWF officials being members of lobbying organizations for genetic engineering.
Huismann also questions WWF’s stance on salmon farming and says the organization is in league with Marine Harvest, the world’s biggest producer. According to Huismann, Marine Harvest’s methods of farming salmon in Norway are acceptable, but in its Chilean operation the salmon are pumped so full of antibiotics that they are described as “floating pharmacies.” (It is a fairly safe bet to say that this was written before Chile enacted the latest legislation to regulate its aquaculture industry.)
Despite the fact that Marine Harvest “destroys the marine ecology and the lives of people in Chile,” Huismann says WWF completed a partnership contract with the company in 2008. What this “contract” stipulates Huismann doesn’t say, but there are rumors that Marine Harvest contributes to WWF’s coffers “in order to be left alone.”
The reaction of WWF to the book and the film has been fast and furious. Injunctions have been issued in Cologne, Germany’s fourth largest city, preventing parts of the film from being broadcast again. Cuts to the book were also demanded and “an expensive lawyer” hired to put pressure on retailers not to sell it in the meantime.
WWF didn’t reply to a request for information, so it is impossible to say what cuts it is asking for. However, it does seem strange that an organization that purports to be in favor of free speech is acting in this manner. It is almost an admission that it has something to hide.
Unlike other environmental organizations, WWF takes donations direct from industry so it is not unreasonable to suspect that it could have got too close to big business and its actions have become compromised.
An activist in the palm oil industry, where it is claimed that the WWF is involved in discussions leading to the clearing of wild forests for palm oil production, said: “WWF greenwashes the environmental sins of the industry — and takes money in exchange.”
Whether this is true or not, we shall never know. According to Raymond Bonner, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist: “It is unlikely that any other charitable organization that depends on public support operates with such little accountability and in such secrecy as WWF. It is easier to penetrate the CIA.”
It would be nice to think that WWF has changed since that was written in 1994 and there are signs that this could be happening, but against its will. On 15 June, the court in Cologne ruled that Huismann’s book could remain on the market without any changes. (WWF is appealing to get this decision reversed.)
Meanwhile, no doubt to the chagrin of WWF, “The silence of the Pandas: What WWF isn’t saying” was nominated in two categories at this month’s 52me Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo.
25 June, 2012