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Voices: Don’t let the arms industry sponsor Bristol Pride


Lorna Stephenson argues that companies such as Babcock should not be allowed to ‘pink-wash’ their dealings with repressive regimes by sponsoring Pride events.

Thousands of people will be celebrating LGBT rights and history tomorrow with the Bristol Pride parade and harbourside event which – kudos to the organisers – is the largest free Pride event in the country. But in amongst the speeches, music and cabaret performances, the food and the dancing, will be some rather questionable participants.

Corporate sponsorship is crucial to keeping Bristol Pride running, so it’s not a surprise to see various big corporations in the lists of sponsors and corporate supporters – from Nando’s to international legal firms. But, this being Bristol, there’s also a healthy defence industry presence, and I think that’s a problem.

According to the Bristol Pride website:

“The Pride Parade is also our chance to be a beacon for those many who cannot be out in their countries, to the 77 countries that ban homosexuality and offer lengthy prison sentences, to the 10 countries where homosexuality is punished by death and to all those where people have been driven to suicide by bullying or entrapment – sadly some of these are EU countries.”

Along with the MoD’s procurement arm, DE&S, international arms behemoth Babcock International is a supporter of the event and will be running an expo stall. They may be an equal opportunities employer in the UK, but their international business involves trading billions of pounds of arms and military services to repressive regimes around the world.

Many of these states commit human rights abuses, including those such as Saudi Arabia, which not only has killed thousands of civilians in leading the ongoing air strike campaign against Yemen, but is one of the only states in the world where homosexuality is punishable by death.

Hypocrisy like Babcock’s isn’t only present at Bristol Pride. Spokesperson for CAAT, Kat Hobbs, is also active in No Pride In War, which is an anti-militarist LGBTQA+ group. No Pride In War will be taking action at London Pride. She says Babcock’s involvement in Bristol Pride is “disgraceful” given the massive corporation supplies arms around the world.

“LGBTQA+ people are fighting for freedom across the world, and we can’t allow arms companies to cynically use our identities as a pink-washing exercise to improve their public image,” she commented. “Pride began as a protest and it stands for liberation and community. Weapons manufacturers have no place in Pride.”

So, Bristol Pride organisers, perhaps next year we could do without the arms companies.

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  • Interesting that you think Babcock International is an arms dealer, perhaps you should better research the company before you make such bold statements. Yes, Babcock is indeeed within the defence industry, but they do not deal arms! This is really poor investigative journalism that is as bad as mainstream media, no thought, no research, no understanding of the industry. As someone who used to work in the industry I am a very disappointed reader, as this is embarrassing and poor research like this will seriously impact your credibility. Seems I have misjudged the Bristol cable and I may need to take future publications with a pinch of salt from now on.


  • Slightly moot point James don’t you think? 30 seconds on the Babcock website & it’s clear they grubbily profit from war, but yep not arms dealers. Your comment just seems a bit of a pointless derail. Profiting from fixing weapon delivery systems that kill people, still makes them a questionable sponsor for a pride event in my book.


  • I do not see why making money from the defence sector means you can not support an event like pride. They are a huge employer in the UK and if they want to support their LGBT staff and the LGBT community then I personally think that is great, or are you suggesting that because they work in the defence sector they should be raging homophobes?
    However, that is hardly my point I was more irritated that a news source I thought I could trust is misrepresenting the truth here, calling them arms dealers. This is something I would expect from the mainstream media to sell papers etc not an independent who claims to offer quality investigative journalism.


  • Lorna and James you are deluded if you believe that the UK does not need a defence industry. You sit there now with your freedoms to write this article in part because we have our defence industry, you have your phone/laptop/Tablet or whatever you are typing from because our Navy are protecting our seas and our economy when they protect the shipping lanes we use, you have the power in your device because the Navy/forces protect our energy production including offshore wind farms etc. The defence industry has been around for thousands of years in different guises and there is as much need now as there has ever been. War is always about politics the MOD nor Babcock make the decision to go to war so you should cast wisely at the ballot box.


  • What this article says to me that LGBT community should not take jobs with these organisations and they should be straight only organisations? The LGBT Community are not to be employed by companies that this “Author” finds questionable, so you want those that are a part of your community unemployed because their jobs do not fit in with your personal morals? For someone proclaiming to be inclusive your words are excluding a large amount of your own community and they are not my views, how would you like it if I said I don’t want any militant political types polluting a just cause and to not allow you to participate?


  • Interesting article from someone who is apparently attempting to preach tolerance, yet is so intolerant of those who share different opinions to her own, to the extent that she wishes to deny members of the LGBT community from taking part in Pride. Pride is a celebration of freedom; I feel the author needs to remember this and show some respect for the sacrifices made by our own military over the years in the name of the freedom that we all enjoy. Defending our country and maintaining our freedom is often a thankless job that occurs behind the scenes and outside of the public radar; I feel the author should keep this in mind before she claims to be an expert on the subject. To conclude, I feel the author is selfishly using Pride as a platform to advance her own narrow agenda and should quite frankly be truly ashamed of herself.


    • Totally agree. Pride should be inclusive and not ban its own community members from taking part. The defence of our country ensures our freedom to celebrate our identity.


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