The oil giant confirmed this weekend it would be severing ties with the
Wildlife Photographer of the Year show at the Natural History Museum,
London, from this year.
The move follows intense pressure from Friends of the Earth and WWF, who have
accused the company of using the event to "greenwash" its environmental
Eco-warriors who have played a prominent role in the campaign include Mark
Brown, the vegan grandson of Sir Derek Vestey, who made a Â£1 billion fortune
in the meat trade.
Brown and fellow activists from the group London Rising Tide staged monthly
demonstrations outside the exhibition centre.
In 2000 Brown was acquitted of being the ringleader of the Reclaim the Streets
march that triggered riots in the City, causing Â£2m of damage.
Shell is the latest oil multinational to be accused by the eco-lobby of using
environmental causes as "greenwash". BP's launch of its "beyond petroleum"
campaign to explore alternative sources of energy was greeted with derision
by green activists.
Opponents of Shell's sponsorship - entries for the 2008 prize close in March -
argued the company is an inappropriate sponsor because of its ambitions in
the Arctic and the destruction it causes in areas such as the Alberta tar
sands in Canada and the east Siberian island of Sakhalin.
They claim there was also disquiet among members of the wildlife unit at the
BBC, which helps organise the event, and from some photographers who entered
the competition, which attracted 32,000 entries from 78 countries last year.
Recent winners of the contest, which began in 1964, have included Goran
Ehlme's shot of a walrus stirring up the ocean floor as it feasts on
bivalves; and Manuel Presti's photograph of a flock of starlings over Rome
trying to evade a falcon.
Pressure has gradually mounted since the company started its sponsorship in
2006. Campaigners have disrupted awards ceremonies. They have also run
parallel displays called "Shell Wild Lie", featuring photographs of the
impact of oil drilling on animals and their habitat, outside venues for
exhibitions linked to the competition.
The campaign culminated with Friends of the Earth urging the public to
complain to the museum. Last night, the Natural History Museum confirmed it
was seeking new sponsors.
Sharon Ament, its director of public engagement, would not discuss reasons for
the decision but thanked Shell for its support. She said it had helped
cement the show's reputation as the world's most prestigious wildlife
"Partnerships such as this with multinational companies enable us to extend
the reach of our activity, helping us to promote the enjoyment of the
natural world to a wider audience," she said.
WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, described the decision as "fantastic
A spokesman for the oil company said its involvement would end after a
nationwide tour of winners of the 2007 competition following the current
exhibition at the museum in London. He refused to comment on the reason for
the decision, but denied it was linked to the protests.
"Protection of the environment remains of great importance to Shell," he said.
"We have a number of relationships with organisations around biodiver-sity
such as the World Conservation Union, the Nature Conservancy, the
Smithsonian Institution and Wetlands International."
- 102 Greenwash Awards
- 183 Environment
- 190 Natural Resources