How I found out who is funding the arms trade – and what I did about it!

Bexie21 describes her experience at Clarion Events Baby Show

This is a blog about how I found out that BabyCentre were indirectly funding the arms trade – and perhaps more importantly, what I did about it.

I was browsing BabyCentre, 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 BabyCentre’s 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 you’re anything like me, you thought, what the Scooby Doo is a bloody arms fair? Introducing Google, My good friend!, I found the website of CAAT (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 familes 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.

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 don’t want to fund this! I don’t want to be linked, because I bought a nursing pillow at a baby show, to someone being tortured with a stun baton.

Did BabyCentre know about this link? Yes, it appears they did. It was brought to their attention in November 2008. So why didn’t 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 don’t make a difference, we have to try.

Emails were sent – to BabyCentre, to sponsors, to Myleene Klass’ PR company. We were hoping she would pull out when she became aware of the link.

BabyCentre’s upper management gave a crappy response, posted late at night (I assume, so they didn’t 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 BabyCentre were not even prepared to pull out. They didn’t even consider it a ”conflict of interest.” Bounty and UNICEF did. UNICEF wanted no donations from ticket sales. As a charity, that’s a pretty big thing to say – that even though money helps your charity, you’d rather not have it from what you’re 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 can’t 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 environment. 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 disappointed. 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 management – 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 four stalls to say they were going to investigate the link and would make donations to UNICEF to ”offset”. Whether 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 don’t know about it, how can I change it?

I’m glad I was given this opportunity to at least try and make a difference.

CAAT gives thanks to Bexie21 for her actions at the Baby Show – she is making a difference.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

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