Posted by keith on May 17th, 2009
I have been following a brilliant campaign being orchestrated by a group of mothers (and a few fathers) concerned about the support that one of the world’s biggest parenting forums is giving to a company that organise arms fairs.
The text below is copied out verbatim from the journal entry of one of the ordinary people who found they could not leave this be. It speaks for itself…
This is a blog about how i found out that Baby centre were indirectly funding the arms trade – And perhaps importantly, What i did about it.
I was browsing BC, when i came across a thread on DC lite. I like DC lite, because it is full of all different types of thread, some funny, some challenging, generally though, it makes you think!!
BlueHouser had written a thread on Babycentres Involvement with The Baby Show – Well that’s quite normal, i thought, a baby website, involved with a baby show, for parents and expectants, sounds good! I was going! Bought my tickets already, and was looking forward to spending my hard earned dosh on lovely things for my little sproggy! Things for him, things for me, Wahey!!
The Baby show was run by Clarion Events. Hmm. No worries there.
Clarion Events ALSO run Arms fairs. If your anything like me, you thought, what the scooby doo is a bloody arms fair? Introducing Google, My good friend! I found the CAAT website ( campaign against the arms trade) and wow….
I got it – Clarion run baby shows. Clarion also run arms fairs- where weapons are sold. Weapons that maim and kill familys and children and mothers and expectants. Right. Well, surely, they are regulated and policed and are really strict?
I continued to read the DC lite thread, where i came across a link to Mark Thomas’s website: http://www.markthomasinfo.com/section_writing/default.asp?id=16
He actually *attended* the DSEI arms fair ( run by Clarion). He met THREE companies, who were prepared to sell him equipment which is banned in the UK because it is considered an implement of torture – Stun Guns, Stun Batons and Leg Irons.
I dont want to fund this! I dont want to be linked, because i bought a nursing pillow at a baby show, to someone being tortured with a stun baton.
Do Babycentre KNOW about this link? Yes, it appears they did. It was brought to their attention in November 2008. So why didnt they pull out, i thought? Did they not consider that it was wrong? You buy a coffee at the baby show, a portion of the money from your coffee inevitably ends up with Clarion, who then use that money to host an arms fair, where a weapon is bought, and used on a village in africa (for instance) – On a child? On a mother? On a father?
So… What to do. A few of us thought we could make a difference. And even if we dont make a difference, We have to TRY.
Emails were sent – To BC, to sponsors, to Myleene Klass’ PR company. We were hoping she would pull out when she became aware of the link.
Baby centres upper management gave a crappy response, Posted late at night ( i assume, so they didnt get all our outrage at once!)
We thought long and hard as to whether a partnership with the Baby Show would be a conflict of interest, and ultimately decided that it’s not. (For full response, see page 10 of dc lite thread)
Needless to say, That was a pretty corporate response, with no justification. Just, they had thought about it, and decided to go ahead anyway.
Lots of people got angry. There was a vote and thread that got posted in many birth boards, mine included. I felt it important, that people be aware of the link. I felt appalled that BC were not even prepared to pull out. They didnt even consider it a ”conflict of interest.” Bounty [Ed. See comment below about Bounty's activities] and UNICEF did. Unicef wanted NO donations from ticket sales. As a charity, thats a pretty big thing to say, That even though money helps your charity, you’d rather not have it from what your fighting against.
I decided that, after speaking to DC Liters, i would still go to the show. I would go – But i would speak to the stall holders about the issue. I felt that i had a responsibility – Because the UK police/government/stallholders cant hit me with a stun baton, that sprays and stuns, so if you get covered in the liquid you still feel the stun.
Friday Arrived, and I was quite nervous. I was hoping that i would do DC Liters proud. I was hoping that i could make a difference.
I arrived, and was really *shocked* at the amount of companies marketing themselves as ETHICAL.
A gentleman approached me. He asked me if i recycled. I asked him if he was aware of the Clarion Link. He asked if i cared about the enviroment. I said i was slightly more concerned with child soldiers, cluster bombs going off and blowing kids legs off, implements of torture being sold in the uk. I asked him why his company felt it appropriate that they had a stall here. He walked off.
I saw Myleene give her talk at 11am on the prima baby stand. I was actually really disapointed – Firstly, she still felt it appropriate that she attended, and secondly, that her talk was so damn boring!! She was basically selling her summer range of baby K clothing. I attempted to approach Myleene at the mother care stand – It was a bit of a wrestling ring though, loads of people, and i was worried about my bump. I decided to give that one a miss, although i felt a bit wimpy!
I was approached by a persil representative – I asked them if they considered the Clarion link appropriate. She walked off too.
I got a few good responses – Pregnacare said they have been given an answer to tell people by their manangement – Which was they decided they could do more good by staying with Clarion, then they have financial backing with which to use as a bargaining chip in getting them to pull out.
I asked fisher price, was told to wait for a manager. 45 minutes later, I gave up waiting, but filled in the ‘cards’ with my opinion on it.
I found the smaller stalls were not really aware – They got a stall because they needed the money. I got 4 stalls to say they were going to investigate the link and would make donations to UNICEF to ”offset”. Wether they actually will or not, is up to them, but i felt great. I was concerned, and i was making a difference!
I tried my best. I raised the issue. I feel proud, of DC liters, of myself. I found out, was against it, and tried my hardest to recitfy the situation.
Ignorance is not bliss. Im glad i knew. I know that had i not been made aware of the link, I would have gone, spent loads of dosh, not given it a second thought – If i dont know about it, how can i change it?
Im glad i was given this opportunity to at least try and make a difference.
What would you have done…and what will you do when faced with something similar?
DC Lite = Debate Club Lite, a debating group on BabyCentre UK
Myleene Klass = Pop star and TV presenter, former member of band Hear’Say