Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bottled Fury - Complain to the European Parliament

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This image, of a baby bottle representing family, is once again being pushed on us in promotional materials. This time by the European Parliament. (It was seen as a massive billboard poster on the London Underground, at King's Cross. If you've seen it anywhere else, please let me know.)
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It's bad enough when Oxfam equates the bottle to motherhood... and the UK's Conservative Party uses it in the same way... but in a democratic institution that's supposed to protect rights and oversee the proper implementation of laws? In our name?
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Worse, it's using the image to promote the need for our vote, in the 2009 elections. Obscenely, and I do mean obscenely, the image is used in a serious of postcards that highlights that the EU stands for green, healthy and integrated people centred values. The baby bottle stands alongside purer food, cleaner energy and green values, as the 'better alternative'?
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Let me get that straight? The BPA filled plastic bottle, being delivered into a baby's mouth by a silicon teat, containing an expensive and highly profitable industrial food product made of dehydrated cow's milk, which may or may not contain, salmonella, e. sakazakii, melamine... and which has untested chemically created 'new' ingredients and no known ingredients list... is the healthy green alternative? It stands up there with wind power, organic free range chickens and bio-fuels?
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Really?
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And that's before we get to the 4000 baby bottle deaths a day in resource poor countries? *Broken record. Fall off chair. Slump to floor, brains bleeding out of ears.*
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At least on this one, they can't do the immediate response of numpties when you hit them in the face with their incompetence and ignorance of the issues: they can't turn around and claim no one knows what's in the bottle: it could be breast milk. If it's pumped human milk, how does that represent freeing people up from long work hours, to be with your family? Does not compute.
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But on what level can anyone back there, in any political organisations that is supposed to protect human rights, not see the magnitude of the error in all this? In our name? Paid for with OUR money? In order to entice us to vote in the European elections, because the European Parliament cares for our standard of life and living, when no one else does?
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Oh yes.
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Oh no.
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Certainly not in our name.
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So, what can we do? (I'm presuming, we really don't need to go through WHY we are doing it. If you're confused - hit the links, especially the Oxfam one.)
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What To Do!
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Well, complain mightily, obviously. Long, loud and constant. This using the bottle to represent motherhood and family life has got to stop. Complaining, however is complex.
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Your Member(s) of European Parliament is first in the queue, if you reside in Europe. (My links are in English, but you can flick to your own language.)
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To get the UK map, click here. You'll then get a list menu of the UK regions with the list of several MEPs who represent you. Yes, you have several.
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Me? I'm emailing the same complaint to them all. It's only copy and paste.
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If you are unsure what region you are in, go to the UK Parliament site, by clicking here. Put your postcode in, and this will give you your MP. Click on 'MEP and other details' at the bottom of the page, and it will list your MEPs for you. The full list also appears here, with details of the MEP's activities. Apart from the complaint, request your MEP investigate if any commercial companies have helped fund this campaign, in any way. Ask for the companies' names.
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This is the letter I'll be sending to all of mine:
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Dear
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I'm writing to protest, in the strongest possible terms, about the EU using the image of a full baby bottle in their current campaign to entice voters like me to vote in the 2009 elections. It is absolutely obscene that the EU should present to the public an image of a baby bottle representing family life and family values. 4000 babies die of inappropriate bottle feeding every day, and in order to protect the poor of the world, the international community has rules and regulations that seek to protect families from being exploited. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a "minimum requirement" to protect infant health and is to be implemented "in its entirety." How can the EU stand so flagrantly against Code, and use a baby bottle image in this manner? What is even more unbelievable, is that the bottle is partnered in a campaign about 'greener' issues that the EU stand for. The baby bottle represents family life in competition against long work hours, and stands beside green fuel and wind power in the other images, to promote healthier lifestyles. This is an insult to all the hard work being done currently, and over the past few decades, in protecting the health of the poorest children on the planet.
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As my MEP, I am requesting that you:
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1) Pass back to me the name and contact details of the most relevant person/contact within the EU, for me to make a direct complaint to them.
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2) That you seek an explanation from the relevant department on how this incredible mistake has reached the public without being spotted by someone with an ounce of common sense of understanding for the power of media images - and the existence of The Code.
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3) Let me know what your party's official response to this postcard is. I'm presuming your party will complain in its own right. If this is not going to happen, I'd appreciate a written response detailing why your party did not feel it appropriate to do so, and a formal statement on your party's stance on The Code.
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4) An assurance that no sponsorship or donations from companies paid in part, in any way, for the design, implementation and production of this campaign. If commercial companies were informed in funding this campaign, in any way, please obtain the names and addresses for said company. This includes feeding into a wider fund, that work and expenses for this campaign project, may have drawn from.
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I look forward to an early reply...
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I'll keep you updated.


Update: For those still to compose your letters of complaint, you may wish to include a quote from this excellent response issued today by La Leche League GB. (Do note the link to the 2004 EU Action Project on breastfeeding images.)
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"La Leche League GB is surprised and disappointed to see that the image of a baby bottle is being used on posters for the European Parliament elections to represent "the family". As an organisation offering support and information to breastfeeding women, we know how important it is for breastfeeding to be seen as the normal way to feed a baby and for women to have confidence in their ability to do this.
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Both the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, with continued breastfeeding after the introduction of other foods up to and beyond two years. To use the image of a baby bottle re-inforces the belief that a baby will be bottle fed and undermines the positive messages about breastfeeding and a woman's confidence to do so. It also contradicts the European Blueprint for Action* which says all media imagery must present breastfeeding as the norm.
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We would like to see this poster withdrawn from use."
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Anna Burbidge on behalf of Council of Directors, LLLGB.
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**EU Project on Promotion of Breastfeeding in Europe. Protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in Europe: a blueprint for action. European Commission, Directorate Publich Health and Risk Assessment, Luxembourg 2004.
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I'll keep you updated to other statement and links as they occur....


8 comments:

NakedFaery said...

I'm positively rubbing my hands in GLEE at the prospect of the MEP from UKIP getting my complaint letter :-)

lotus said...

Here is my letter to my MEP

FOR THE ATTENTION OF:

Andrew Duff MEP
Eastern

Thursday 9 April 2009

Dear Andrew Duff,

I am surprised and saddened to see that the image of a baby bottle is being used on posters for the European Parliament elections to represent "the family". [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections_2009_package/default.htm] As a member of an organisation offering support and information to breastfeeding women, I know how important it is for breastfeeding to be seen as the normal way to feed a baby and for women to have confidence in their ability to do this.

Both the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health in the UK recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, with continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of other foods up to and beyond two years. To use the image of a baby bottle re-inforces the belief that a baby will be bottle fed and undermines the positive messages about breastfeeding and a woman's confidence to do so. It also contradicts the European Blueprint for Action* which says all media imagery must present breastfeeding as the norm.

I would like to see this poster withdrawn from use immediately.

In addition, I would like to quote from the Innocenti Declaration, signed by over 30 countries, including Great Britain. which states that:

'Efforts should be made to increase women's confidence in their ability to breastfeed. Such empowerment involves the removal of constraints and influences that manipulate perceptions and behaviour towards breastfeeding, often by subtle and indirect means. This requires sensitivity, continued vigilance, and a responsive and comprehensive communications strategy involving all media and addressed to all levels of society. ...
'Attainment of this goal requires, in many countries, the reinforcement of a "breastfeeding culture" and its vigorous defence against incursions of a "bottle-feeding culture". This requires commitment and advocacy for social mobilization, utilizing to the full the prestige and authority of acknowledged leaders of society in all walks of life.'

In addition, given the international context of these elections, I am concerned about the global implications of representing bottle feeding alongside such ecologically sound options as alternative energy and free range chickens. Whilst the use of breastmilk substitutes could be a reasonably viable option for some Western women, "In India alone, to replace breastmilk, 135 million lactating cows would be needed. In Mexico to produce 1 kilogram of baby milk would require 12.5 square metres of cleared land." [Infact, Canada]

I hope that you will use your 'prestige and authority' to ensure that this imagery is withdrawn from the campaign materials at the earliest opportunity.

Sincerely

Councillor Louise Lotz,


Liberal Democrat Councillor, Welwyn Hatfield


*EU Project on Promotion of Breastfeeding in Europe. Protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in Europe: a blueprint for action. European Commision, Directorate Public Health and Risk Assessment, Luxembourg 2004.

NakedFaery said...

Reply from Nigel Farages' office - UKIP MEP for the South East, regarding use of bottle imagery in EU campaign material:

Thank you for writing to Nigel Farage about a motif being used in the EU's campaign to raise voter-turnout (in favour of EU-policies and pro-EU parties) for the elections to the EU's consultative assembly, in June.

This motif is obviously hypocritical and insulting (EU-policies are not pro-family, and voters are not babies) although I doubt whether many would have recognised that it was in contravention of a WHO-code. Nor, not having seen it, do I appreciate exactly how it does this.

The EU-assembly alone (never mind the EU's Commission!) is spending €18 millions on promoting itself and its supporters in campaigns like the one you mention. This is all taxpayers' money, of course: so you are right to take this personally. You helped to pay for the printing! It could also be that the Commission's "economic partner", NestlĂ©, had something to do with the design!

As to your requests.

(1) The person responsible for the assembly's advertising campaign is Herr Hans-Gert Pöttering, who can be found at
PHS 11B14, Wiertzstraat 60, Brussel-1047, Belgium.

(2) Not having seen the postcard, I cannot comment on it formally. Could you scan me a copy, please, together with details of when and where you found it? Was it posted to your home-address?

(3) I certainly shall, when I see it; but UKIP's complaint will go to the Electoral Commission, in Britain, which can direct the EU to stop distributing such material. In fact, you would be advised to complain to them too!

(4) I can give no such assurances. The EU works in very mysterious ways. What's more, it, and its officers, are immune to prosecution for anything they do in the course of their duties. They are above the law - all law - even the EU's own illegitimate, anti-democratic law, and we stand absolutely no chance of getting any information from them.

Thanks again for bringing this matter to Mr Farage's attention. The matter will not rest here.

Yours sincerely

Andrew S. Reed


Nestle, the B*****ds!

On the whole, I am not entirely pleased with the obvious political bias behind this e-mail. However I am thankful to the MEP's lackey for providing with me with recommendations of who else to complain to.

Morgan said...

The promotional materials are on:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections_2009_package/default.htm

I've edited it in above.

sophiedb said...

Your wish is my command!

All SW region MEPs, have now been emailed.. one of whom likes to mention that "from 1999 to June 2004 she was chairman of the Parliament's committee on the Environment, Consumer Protection and Public Health" in her bio. Well then.. Her reply should be interesting (in theory). Heh.

Kate said...

I saw this advert "in the flesh" today at Sloane Square underground station. I'll be contacting my MEP this week as well...

Anji said...

Would it be okay to use the wording of your letter? Every time I try to write this, I end up coming back to yours anyway because it's so articulate!

Also do you think email would be as effective, or would a printed letter be better?

Morgan said...

Oh feel free to use mine!

In my experience, email replies come faster, but have spelling mistakes, and printed on letter ones take a lot longer.

Your choice!