An American beer company has earned criticism for naming a beverage after the location of a series of nuclear tests and human experiments that negatively affected the lives of many inhabitants of the Marshall Islands with claims they are “creating awareness” on the subject.
The Bikini Atoll beer by the Texas-based Manhattan Project Beer Company was named after the massive coral reef in the Marshall Islands, which are located in the central Pacific Ocean. From 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, displacing inhabitants and leaving many exposed to the resulting high levels of radiation years later.
The U.S. conducted its largest-ever nuclear weapon test, code name Castle Bravo, at the Bikini Atoll in 1954. Due to an alleged error, the test resulted in an explosion that sent 15 megatons of nuclear energy into the atmosphere – more than 1,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.
Nearly 10 years later, scientists found an 11-fold increase in radioactive caesium-137 in the bodies of the inhabitants and determined that the island wasn’t actually safe at all. The 178 residents were evacuated in September 1978 once again. Once an area of a thriving community, the Bikini Atoll has become a dead group of islands that remain uninhabitable today.
Many still alive today reportedly suffer from thyroid cancer and continue to share horrific stories of still births and deformed children born after the tests as a consequence of the radiation.
Now, Marshall Islanders have called the company insensitive for naming the beer after one of the most devastating acts of environmental and cultural destruction in human history.
“Nuclear testing is not something to joke about for Pacific Islanders. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom have used our islands – and our families – as test subjects,” one Pacific Islander wrote in an online petition.
“Many have reached out to Manhattan Project Beer Company to express our collective disappointment. We have tried to explain how the naming of this beer after a human tragedy is insensitive at best. And we have been ignored. Our next recourse is to reach out to Manhattan Project Beer Company distributors to ask them to please stop selling Bikini Atoll beer.”
In response to the growing criticism, the company published a statement on Twitter saying that its Bikini Atoll beer “was not created to mock or trivialize the nuclear testing that took place in the Marshall Islands.”
“Throughout brand and naming, we are creating awareness of the wider impacts and implications of the United States’ nuclear research programs and the pivotal moment in world history that is often forgotten.”
According to the tweet, the beer company claimed its workers had received “significant harassment and death threats.”
Dismissing any chance of yielding to the backlash, the company concluded with: “This is the only statement we will make, and we will take no further action in this matter.“
Twitter users have since slammed the company’s tweet, which many have called a poor attempt to justify the beer name.
“The bottom line is your product makes fun of a horrific situation here in the Marshall Islands – a situation, that I promise you is still ongoing – to make money for your company. This is unacceptable to us,” Niedenthal.
Niedenthal, who noted that his wife, children, and grandchildren are Bikini islanders, pointed out that Sanford should understand the pain and suffering the U.S. nuclear weapon tests have caused.
“And now they have to read about how their beloved homeland, poisoned forever by the United States government, has a beer named after it,” he added.
According to Niedenthal, the many elders who suffered horrifically at the hands of the American government would be appalled and thoroughly disgusted to know that an American company named a beer after their destroyed homeland.
Niedenthal wrote that the people of the Marshall Islands have one of the highest cancer rates in the world, adding that every family can tell a personal cancer story that can be traced directly to the nuclear testing period.
“On their behalf, and on behalf of the people of the Marshall Islands, I highly encourage you to discard this ill-conceived product forever, and moreover, I believe you need to issue a public apology to our people,” he wrote.