Survival and tribal people denounce 'ludicrous' cannibal claims

October 20, 2011

The ‘ludicrous and offensive’ reporting of the story has dismayed tribal people around the world © Survival International

This page was created in 2011 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Survival International has lodged a formal complaint with authorities in the UK over the ‘highly offensive and ludicrous’ claims in the world’s press that a German tourist missing in the South Pacific has been ‘eaten by cannibals.’

In a letter to British regulator the Press Complaints Commission, Survival suggested that those newspapers that have described the Indigenous people of the Pacific as ‘cannibals’ are promoting ‘a false and offensive notion that tribal people are primitive savages.’

At the same time, tribal people around the world have reacted with dismay to the reports. Benny Wenda, a Papuan man from the Lani tribe, said, ‘’We’re sick and tired of these stories. The reason they keep using the word ‘cannibal’ about us is because they think we’re savages. It’s like calling Germans today Nazis because of their past, or Britain a land where witches are burned at the stake, of child slavery and public executions. It’s just lazy, racist journalism.’

Deborah Kimitete, deputy mayor of Nuku Hiva island where the alleged murder took place, told the BBC , ‘We are very hurt by these accusations of cannibalism, which are completely false…. I don’t know why they talk about cannibalism, it’s like saying we found the same thing in England and we talk about cannibalism. It’s terrible to say that. Here, nobody talk about that – it’s not true. It’s not the case at all, and we’re very hurt.’

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Pretending that Stefan Ramin’s reported murder has anything to do with tribal cannibalism is absolute hogwash. It may sell newspapers, but is a highly irresponsible slur on the peoples of the Marquesas Islands. It worked to prop up nineteenth century land theft from tribal peoples, but has no place at all in modern journalism. The ‘cannibals’ here may include a sole deviant murderer, but in a way include the journalists, unthinkingly shoring up racist stereotypes with no thought for the harm they do to how tribal peoples are viewed and treated.’

Papuan Tribes