Dear Ms Gallagher…

23 04 2009
Dear Ms Gallagher
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DUCH GUILLOT Jaume <jaume.duch@europarl.europa.eu>
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In response to your mail of 17 April, I have read your letter, the mumsnet blog and your own blog with interest.
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I suggested in my reply to Tom Wise MEP that you had misunderstood the purpose of the advertisement, which was to demonstrate the importance of the work-life balance for men and women, and that I regretted this; I did not say that you had misunderstood the poster itself, but our intention. I am sorry that you considered my reference to my personal circumstances patronising: I intended it to illustrate the role of men to which I had referred.
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It is indeed the role of this office to respond to complaints and requests for information, actually one of its principal roles. My response to you was checked beforehand and approved by the appropriate superiors and was based on the following background.
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The European Parliament issued an international call for tenders last year for a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the 2009 elections. The chosen agency produced a number of ideas which were pre-selected by the appropriate officials and subsequently approved by a steering committee representing all the political groups in the European Parliament, and finally by the information committee of Parliament’s Bureau.
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It is my duty to defend Parliament’s decisions and I shall defend the publicity campaign until I receive contrary instructions. I might remark that I notice that opinions on the blog are divided; and secondly, that the issue has been raised with us in only two out of the 27 Member States, the UK and Ireland. Coincidentally, or paradoxically, these are the two Member States where we had difficulties screening a 30-second TV and cinema spot drawing attention to the 2004 elections, the first element of which was a quick shot of a mother breast-feeding her baby, see:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/may/22/uk.advertising
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To proceed to your questions, which I consider are really one: how does the European Parliament justify using the image of a bottle, given the WHO Code and the Blueprint produced for the Commission in 2004?
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In reply, I would point out that the code refers to marketing and
practices related thereto:
Article 2. Scope of the Code
The Code applies to the marketing, and practices related thereto, of the
following products: breastmilk substitutes;…. feeding bottles and
teats…
We would certainly contest any suggestion that the posters are marketing
formula, bottle-feeding or bottles, any more than the bottle clearly
visible in the mumsnet logo, nor that using the bottle image as an
antithesis to a working environment need be so construed.
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I should add that the European Parliament has a long history of support for breastfeeding, especially in developing countries, with which I am sure that you are familiar, including considerable legislative work on the plastic used in their manufacture.
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Finally, the poster campaign in the UK was commissioned for two weeks only, a period that expired at the weekend, so the posters should be in the process of removal.
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Thank you for your interest in the campaign.
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Yours sincerely
Dermot Scott
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Dear Dermot,
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Thanks for your letter, which is hugely entertaining and a wonder of political response! I appreciated mightily that your office had actually done a bit of research, great fun. Is this a ‘win’ then, when both parties retire bloodied but upright, and the posters sink out of sight.. as they were planned to? 😉 No need to reply, as I am enjoying this opportunity to learn how to speak Euro immensely. However, a few comments to share with you, and your alarmingly long cc list…
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First of all, I did enjoy the slide from ‘purpose’ to ‘intent’ with no breath taken between the two. It was an admirable slide out from the original comment, to your slightly refined position on it. Likewise, there were several excellent such little sidesteps, which I have taken on board, and admire quite openly.
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However, I do find the comment about there being no technical breach of Code, as you’re not marketing products in the poster, of lesser skill, as I made this point to you in my post. Having told you upfront Code didn’t exactly apply to the poster, I’d have liked to have seen some reference to the point that the EU using it was unethical, not a breech.
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But I’m like that – a tad.. focused. Pushy.
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I suppose the absence to the referral of the actual smoking gun – the EU blueprint for action is entirely to be expected: you’re hardly likely to mention the one thing you can’t get round. I don’t mind this at all, as I said I did enjoy the letter, and I’m very sincere in that. I have no doubt that the implications on what you’ve done back there, collectively, are now very firmly in the forefront of people’s minds. The posters are going going gone, which is sufficient unto the day.
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However, there is something of meat to be highlighted to you all, and since you are all now paying attention, I will wax lyrical for a few more moments of your time.
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The role of men is not to free women from breastfeeding their baby. Women don’t need freeing from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is deeply satisfying, and part of a complex hormonal dance between mother and child, that enhances and improves the health of both mother and baby. Bottle feeding is not the same, and sharing out bottle feeds, is a myth of the formula industry. If you look at the statistics, very few men share feeding, especially in the night, the mainstay of the myth. The entire concept of the male having a role in the bottle feeding of their baby, as part of a shared family value, is a house of cards, gentleman. (For there is no women in this long string of cc’s…) The notion that women who breastfeed are ‘freed’ by expressing and bottle feeding, is simply unacceptable, and not appropriate in any political forum.
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The issue is that women should be free to breastfeed, with a child at their breast, and still take part in public life. Our society needs to make that possible, if equality is to mean a damn thing.
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The uncommon phenomenon of the highly privileged using pumps and bottles to facilitate a social life, is perfectly acceptable in the individual, and utterly abhorrent in the global context. This is about human rights, gentleman, and the right not to die from a maggot filled bottle, because somewhere in the affluent countries, women can safely express and bottle feed. That many women have to do it to earn enough money to survive, in affluent countries, is not the point either.
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Many of your own, collective, preconceptions about the complaints to this campaign are firmly based on a highly affluent and privileged world view. A world view that took the complaints, in the main, to be about breastfeeding promotion and men using bottles to feed their babies whilst their wives popped out to get on with their lives. Many of your responses were about how much you supported breastfeeding, and how LOOK! over there, quick, you’ll see the campaign we did with a breast and a baby in it!
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Breastfeeding does not require promotion gentleman. Breastfeeding, as a threat to corporate profit, as a challenge to industry and working conditions, as a reflection of the role and status of women in our society… breastfeeding requires protecting from virulent and constant attack. That’s the message in the Blueprint, which you ignore again at your peril.
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And the reason why breastfeeding requires constant, concentrated and consistent protection.. is that the lack of it kills babies. The part none of you, apart from Struan, have gone anywhere near, as its too huge to play with: far too meaningful and of weight to even begin to play with, in this little dance on posters on the London Tube.
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But it is not something that we mothers will ignore, or allow you to forget. And on that, Dermot, or whoever wrote that part of the letter… the attempt to highlight the differences in opinion on both the posters, and the issues, by discussing the image on Mumsnet, is the single most revealing part of this traditional dance: the common tactic revealed – that of trying to pit mother against mother, based on feeding options, as a way to keep the real issues from being addressed. It was not worthy of you gentleman. Nor is it relevant: the individual is not the collective, and it is in the collective that public health policy is based. In the collective, lack of breastfeeding injures babies.
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Refer to the Blueprint yourself, for that message.
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I told you I was a tad persistent.
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Finally, and to return to the light hearted – you need to get a better proof reader back there guys! Telling me you support breastfeeding by acting upon the plastics used in its manufacture is just so funny, in context. 🙂
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Cheers!
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Morgan Gallagher
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