from debate with Mark Thomas - and loses yet again to Baby Milk
Latest 1 November
2003: Should the Student Union boycott Nestlé products?
As at other universities, after the debate 'No' campaigners
were reduced to arguing it should be an individual choice
whether to boycott Nestlé. Support for individual
boycotting is perhaps reflected in the 213 spoiled ballot
papers. The argument that Nestlé does nothing wrong
is unsupportable. Union officers are discussing how to
respond to the result as turnout was below the 5,000 required
to dictate union policy.
lost yet another debate with Baby Milk Action, this time
at Nottingham University on 20 October. The final vote
for the motion: 'This house will boycott Nestlé'
was 184 in favour, 26 against, 28 abstentions (see
Head of Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, was asked why
she had effectively banned Mark Thomas from taking part
in the debate and replied that she had no objection to
him being in the audience, but thought it would be unbalanced
to have him on the panel. The organisers informed Mike
Brady of Baby Milk Action after the event that Nestlé
had made it clear they would walk out if Mark Thomas was
in the room.
Brady responded: 'I am afraid it no longer surprises
me to learn that Nestlé's Head of Corporate Affairs
has made an untrue statement. I am pleased with the vote,
particularly as I was only able to address a small number
of the denials and deceptions made by the Nestlé
team due to time. It would be nice if Chief Executive,
Peter Brabeck, dismissed staff who mislead the public
in this way, but they are doing his bidding. They all
need to go.'
here for Baby Milk Action's opening statement from a recent
24 October: Baby
Milk Action has been contacted by the organisers of the
debate as Nestlé is apparently upset by the above
analysis regarding Nestlé's refusal to appear if
Mark Thomas was present. Nestlé apparently blames
the organisers for 'misunderstanding' what was meant.
We recall all too vividly Baby Milk Action representatives
being asked to leave the audience in the past at Nestlé's
insistence - not for making any disturbance, but simply
for being there. Pressure from the boycott and student
protests has forced Nestlé to debate with Baby
Milk Action. Given its record and general obstructiveness
in arrangements for debates, Baby Milk Action believes
the onus was on Nestlé to clearly state the conditions
it was placing on the organisers if its threat to walk
out if Mark Thomas was present was not intended to be
taken as an outright ban. To clarify this after the event
(and after the press release below) is of little use and
lacks credibility. Nestlé's comments are, however,
an important precedent for future debates, for which we
according to Nestlé...
only contact that I would say with the mother is through
Senior Policy Advisor, Nestlé.
Speaking at the Nottingham Forum debate.
was speaking Nestlé was running this advertisement
in the press in South Africa. Click
for the large version. It says "Hey mums,
Nestlé Blue Bear andthe Baby-Care Friends are in
town. If you're concerned about what, when and how to
feed your little one, come along to an event in your area.
You'll receive an absorbing 15-minute talk on baby feeding
and be taken through the Nestlé Developmental Nutrition
Plan, conducted by a qualified clinic sister. You'll also
learn more about feeding your baby according to her developmental
stage, to best suit her nutritional needs."
does not tell the truth about its baby food marketing
activities. Also see Nestlé's "Calling all
mothers to be" leaflet in the codewatch
section, where you will find information on action you
can take to stop Nestlé malpractice.
Comedian and investigative
film maker, Mark Thomas, has accused Nestlé of 'moral cowardice' for
refusing to debate with him at Nottingham University. Mark had
agreed to appear
to talk about the Nestlé baby
food marketing malpractice uncovered on his Channel 4 television
the promise made to him by Nestlé Chief Executive, Peter
Brabeck, which was subsequently broken. Explaining her refusal
to debate if Mark Thomas was present, Nestlé's Head
of Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, said 'The
controversies surrounding the marketing of infant formula are complicated
and involving an entertainer - any entertainer - on one side only
lead to an unbalanced debate.' A debate will go ahead
between Hilary Parsons and Mike Brady of Baby Milk Action at 5
20 October. Mike Brady said: 'I would have preferred the organisers
to stand firm,
but they have withdrawn Mark's invitation. I have to go to expose
the demonstrably untrue claims Hilary makes about Nestlé's activities.' Students
will be holding a cross-campus referendum on boycotting Nestlé
in the near future. Mike Brady and
Mark Thomas are available for interview.
Thomas told Baby Milk Action his opinion of Nestlé: 'It
shows Nestlé's moral cowardice. They are
not interested in genuine health issues, but the appearance
of concern for health issues. They are prepared to manipulate
a debate for their own commercial ends.'
University students will hold a referendum to renew a student
union boycott of Nestlé products shortly.
When students at the University of East Anglia held a referendum
after a Nestlé/Baby Milk Action debate, there was
a 2 to 1 majority in favour of the boycott, with those against
reduced to arguing for 'freedom of choice'. In the past Nestlé used
to refuse to even speak at a public meeting if Baby Milk
Action was present, but backed down from this position in
March 2001 due to pressure from the boycott and because students
denied the company a platform unless it would debate. Students
also targetted Nestlé graduate recruitment events.
Mark Thomas investigated
Nestlé for his Channel 4
programme and interviewed Health Ministers from African countries.
Now Nestlé dismisses him as a 'professional entertainer'.
Here Mark holds a tin he found in South Africa without appropriate
languages on the label, showing that written promises made
by Nestlé CEO, Peter Brabeck, were being broken.
Mike Brady, Campaigns
and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action who has taken
part in many debates with
untrue claims are
easily exposed by documentary
evidence of malpractice. I
presume Hilary Parsons is running away from Mark Thomas, and dismissing
him as just an 'entertainer', because she fears media attention.'
most recent debate between Nestlé and Baby Milk
Action took place at a TUC fringe meeting (see
press release 10 September 2003).
brought along Nestlé's
Head of Communications, David Hudson, Senior Policy Advisor,
Beverley Mirando, paid Nestlé advisor,
Lord Nazir Ahmed, and someone from Shandwick public relations
firm, who sat together at the front of the audience.
warning, Hilary Parsons, brought paid Nestlé
advisor, Lord Nazir Ahmed, and others to back her up at
the last debate. Now she claims it would be 'unbalanced'
for Mark Thomas to take part in the
debate at Nottingham.
Brady said: 'This is yet another example of the dishonesty
and incompetence of Nestlé's PR team. It is pathetic for Ms.
Parsons to object to Mark Thomas being present when, without
warning, she brought a contingent of paid supporters to
the TUC. I didn't object
to Lord Ahmed speaking at the TUC debate, I simply addressed
the points he made with
company practices and left people in the audience to make up
their own minds.'
further information or to arrange an interview with Mike Brady
or Mark Thomas email firstname.lastname@example.org or
call 07986 736179.
Voting figures we
|For : 184
On his Channel
4 television programme, Mark Thomas interviewed the
Minister of Health from Zimbabwe, who accused Nestlé of 'economic
blackmail' for threatening to close its factory
if Zimbabwe introduced legislation regulating the marketing
of baby foods
(see Boycott News 26 and Boycott
News 27). Chief Executive,
gave Mark a written undertaking that labels of all
in the appropriate language by March 2000. Mark found
in a follow-up investigation in South Africa a year
being broken. One of the cases featured on the television
programme was labelling in Malawi, where the company claimed it
was not economically viable to label breastmilk substitutes
in Chichewa, the national
language. Following the programme, labels were rushed onto
the market, but these had been rejected by the Malawian
as not all warnings were given and the instructions and translations
were incorrect (see the Campaign
for Ethical Marketing action sheet March 2000).
Students at Cardinal
Newman School were interviewed on BBC Radio 4's 'The Learning
Curve' in September 2003 about their
reactions to a debate between Nestlé and Baby Milk
Action (listen to the programme via our broadcasts
section). Students have
since had Nestlé products removed from the school.
A video of this debate is available. Contact
Baby Milk Action for details.
Milk Action's education pack 'Seeing through the spin'
contains exercises and resources to assist pupils in understanding
public relations strategies. It is available
1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld all of
Baby Milk Action's complaints against a Nestlé anti-boycott
advertisement in which the company claimed to market infant
formula 'ethically and responsibly.'
Parsons, Nestlé's Head of Corporate Affairs, provided the
following statement: 'We
are very happy to debate with Baby Milk Action and in fact
participated in 16 or so debates and meetings with them over
the past couple
of years. We are therefore very happy to debate at Nottingham
Milk Action however these debates must be fairly conducted
.Our issue is not
with Mark Thomas but with the fact that one side would be
the help of a professional entertainer and the other side
controversies surrounding the marketing of infant formula
and involving an entertainer - any entertainer - on one side
lead to an unbalanced debate. We are sure Baby Milk Action
would not be
happy if the situation was reversed and a professional entertainer
debating on our side and not theirs.'