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Photo by: SHARON UDASIN
Life-size Barbies protest Mattel in Tel Aviv mall
By SHARON UDASIN
06/13/2011
Greenpeace campaign against the destruction of Indonesian Mixed Tropical Hardwood prompts Ken-Barbie break-up at Diezengoff Center.
 
Two human Barbie dolls, one dressed in an elaborate pink ball gown and another in a strapless purple cocktail dress paraded with cardboard pink chainsaws outside and in the Toys ‘R Us store in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center on Sunday morning as part of a global Greenpeace campaign against Mattel and other toy companies currently using pulp from rain-forest trees in their packaging.

The life-size replicas were taking part in an international effort to get Mattel, makers of one of the most iconic dolls in the world, to cut off ties with Indonesian company Asian Pulp and Paper (APP: a group of Sinar Mas companies), which Greenpeace says is using Mixed Tropical Hardwood in its pulp. Barbie is not the only offender, however, according to Greenpeace – other major toy suppliers creating packaging materials through APP include Hasbro, Disney and Lego, the group said. In Israel, one of the more specific targets, however, is Sakal, the company that distributes Mattel toys, among others, here.

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“This is part of a international push,” Theodora Karchovsky, communications officer for Tel Aviv-based Greenpeace Mediterranean, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon. “We are pushing companies all over the world to get away from the production chain of a company that is crushing the rainforest.”

Sakal did not have a direct response when contacted by the Post, but did send along a statement directly from Mattel, which said: “We take the responsibility of leadership in the toy industry very seriously.

“While we appreciate Greenpeace bringing this important matter to our attention, we were disappointed that they took such an inflammatory and unconstructive approach, considering the open channels of communications we had already established,” the statement continued. “Mattel does not support deforestation nor does it contract directly with Sinar Mas/APP. We purchase packaging materials from a variety of suppliers and it is not the normal course of business to dictate where suppliers source materials. That said, we have directed our packaging suppliers to stop sourcing pulp from Sinar Mas/APP as we investigate the deforestation allegations.”

Back in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning, however, the costumed protesters entered the store bearing their cardboard weaponry and attacked a human orangutan – representative of the injuries occurring in the Indonesian rainforest, according to Karchovsky.

“The workers started yelling and called security and they took us out of there. But we thought we delivered our message,” Karchovsky said.

Also, a man dressed up as a “Ken” doll held a sign saying: “Barbie, it’s over: I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.”

Sunday’s protest in Tel Aviv echoes many other similar Greenpeace displays that have been occurring throughout the world for this campaign. On Tuesday, for example, a group of men dressed as Ken dolls rappelled down the side of Mattel’s Los Angeles headquarters and hung the same sign that the Ken at Dizengoff held. The same messages appeared on the streets of London as well.

“Critical wildlife habitat and carbon-rich rainforests and peatlands are being wrecked for cheap, throw-away toy packaging,” according to the global campaign website, which particularly cites Sumatran tigers as being particularly under threat due to the alleged destruction.

In addition to the live demonstrations, a YouTube interview with a computerized Ken circulating globally, and is available with Hebrew subtitles on Greenpeace’s Israeli site for this campaign, www.barbaric.org.il.

When a looming background voice warns that Barbie has been caught doing something quite “serious,” the exaggeratedly flamboyant, chest-bearing Ken responds from his lushly cushioned magenta lounge chair: “Oh no, she’s been wearing that pink velour track suit with the Marabou trim!”

When the video continues, however, it turns out that last week Barbies was “out on a shoot in some rainforest,” and after marveling over photos of “cute and fluffy orangutans,” Ken suddenly comes across unseen images that disturb him.

“That’s a lot of rainforest being hacked down just so she can be wrapped in cheaper packaging,” the voice says. “Where do you think all that extra money came from for those chest waxes, Ken?"

After quickly pulling together the collar of his button-up – which then immediately flies open – Ken explodes in anger and ends his relationship, shoving his hand into the camera lens.

But, despite the current focus on Barbie, Karchovsky stresses that Disney, Hasbro and Lego are no less at fault. Barbie just has more international acclaim.

“The reason that we chose this one is because it’s the biggest and Barbie is the most famous doll in the world,” she said. “Every 30 seconds a new Barbie doll is being sold. It’s and icon and a symbol – that’s why we’re targeting it.”

Last year, she said, both the global group and the Israel branch took part in a similar campaign against Nestle, which was using rainforest palm oil in its Kit Kats.

“In two months of pressure all over the world we won and nestle said they wouldn’t work with the company anymore,” she explained, noting that Dove, of Unilever was also a previous target for the same reasons. “Now it’s Barbie’s turn. So we hope that this company will be an example for the others.”

“We’re calling on all of them to change their ways,” Karchovsky added. “[These toys] are for children, and while selling them, we are trashing rainforests. This means that their lives in 20-25 years from now will look much different. We’re trashing their future.”
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