- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Environmentalists at a whaling conference in Berlin were accused yesterday of racism after publishing a cartoon depicting Caribbean countries as Japan’s black “lap dog” for supporting its bid to resume commercial whaling.

“Caribbean nations were deeply distressed and offended by the racist editions of the extreme anti-whaling publication,” said a joint statement by Caribbean whaling commissioners from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Nevis and Kitts, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The cartoon, published Wednesday in the newsletter Eco, showed a man with slanted eyes sitting with a black dog on his lap and symbols of yen above it.

The caption read: “His Excellency the lap dog. Millions of the master’s yen buy many votes.”

Almost two dozen environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Cousteau Society, published the newsletter daily throughout the conference, which ended yesterday.

The cartoon and accompanying article, which accused Japan of trying to buy Caribbean votes, appalled many at the conference and brought it to a standstill, said one environmental analyst who followed the four-day event from Washington.

The newsletter “really insinuates that there is a slave-master relationship between the Japanese and Caribbean members,” he said.

On substantive matters, environmentalists left the conference satisfied.

By a 25-20 vote, the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission passed the Berlin Initiative, supported by the United States, to ban whale hunting and set up a permanent committee to protect whales. A proposal for new whale sanctuaries failed, however.

Japan, which hasn’t denied trying to get Caribbean votes, had a long history of whale hunting until it was banned 15 years ago.

It continues to hunt a limited number of whales under a special scientific research exemption. It boycotted several debates this week and said yesterday it still would try to find ways to resume commercial whaling.

As for the cartoon, the conference leadership held a private two-hour meeting Wednesday to discuss the newsletter and afterward issued a complaint calling the article and cartoon “extremely offensive.”

It demanded an apology and rejection of the comments by the newsletter’s sponsors.

The environmentalists initially refused. The conference banned the publication.

“Because the commission’s complaint failed to identify even one specific complaint, the Eco sponsors nor Eco are able to respond to the alleged offensive statements,” the fourth issue of Eco said yesterday. “It is not the duty of Eco or any free press to apologize to any government or international institutions for publishing the truth or honest opinion, however much that may offend.”

Later, throngs of letters rejecting and apologizing for the article and cartoon were sent to the conference leadership.

Greenpeace said it “was not involved in composing, editing or reviewing any material. Had we been aware of the contents of the material it would not have appeared in that form.”

Most other environmental groups signed joint statements rebuking the publication and saying they were sorry for the article and cartoon. They emphasized that the newsletter states that its sponsors don’t necessarily agree with its opinions.

Many conference participants were on their way home last night and could not be reached for comment.

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