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Chapter 23: Activists
“You’re welcome. Good luck with it. I’m glad someone’s finally taking them to task for this,” the old lady smiled and continued on her way.
“How many does that make?” asked Luke.
“Seven hundred and eighty one.”
“That’s pretty good.”
“Yeah but I’d rather have a thousand.”
“When we’ve got a thousand we should send it to ’em.”
“Yeah. Then they’ll have to listen.” Tania put the petition clipboard into her bag and the Society made their way back along the pedestrianised precinct.
“Sponsor us to do the fun run?” Two small boys dressed in Cubs uniforms sat at a table behind a pile of sponsor forms.
Isabel smiled. “What are you raising money for?”
“Hearts Foundation,” answered one of them.
“The British Heart Foundation,” their Akela corrected him.
Isabel looked at her list. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she told them, “the British Heart Foundation is on the red list. We can’t support them.”
“What’s the red list?” asked the other boy.
Isabel showed him. “Charities on the red list do experiments on animals.”
“What kind of experiments?”
“They poison ’em, give ’em diseases, cut ’em up and then kill ’em,” Luke explained.
The boys looked shocked.
“Why’d they do that?” asked one of them.
“They say they do it because they’re trying to find cures for human diseases,” said Tania, “but it’s pointless because human bodies are not the same as other animals so they don’t react the same to diseases or medicines.”
“I’m not doing it!” said one of the Cubs firmly.
“Nor am I,” agreed the other one.
“Are you sure?” asked the Akela, “The British Heart Foundation? Surely they already know what causes heart disease, and how to prevent it.”
Isabel showed her the list.
“My goodness, there’s a lot of them on here,” she said, making a mental note to cancel her standing order to the Wellcome Trust.
“Shall we pack up?” asked a Cub.
“There’s a list of good charities on the other side,” said Isabel, “you could support one of them instead.”
The woman turned the leaflet over and looked at the green list. “Oh yes, there’s a lot to choose from .…… Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research …… ooh there’s a heart one – Heart UK, the Cholesterol Charity.”
“Let’s do that one!”
The Akela picked up the sponsor forms and thought for a moment. “Okay,” she said, “this is actually an easy fix. We’ll get some new sponsor forms printed at the library with Heart UK on them instead of British Heart Foundation and then we can come back here and pick up where we left off!”
The boys were slightly disappointed, having reasoned that the abandonment of BHF would mean they could pack up for the day, but they were very pleased that at least they wouldn’t be supporting animal cruelty.
“Where can I get one of those by the way?”
Isabel looked at the small print at the bottom of the list, “Animal Aid makes them,” she said, “animal aid dot org dot UK.”
“Right. Thank you for telling me.” The Akela smiled and escorted her Cubs to the library.
“That’s the third time that’s happened to me,” said Isabel.
“Cubs asking you for money?” asked Joe.
“No, someone thanking me for telling them about a charity that’s experimenting on animals. And they all said they won’t support them again.”
“It just goes to show,” said Tania, “most people don’t want their money spent on animal torture.”
“Yeah! So it should be the law that when charities ask for money they have to tell people exactly what it’ll be used for.”
“Yeah,” said Joe, “they should put it on their posters.”
“And on their shop windows and their collectin’ tins and their adverts,” added Luke.
“Yeah!” said Tania, “let’s have some real transparency!”
“If only!” said Isabel.
“If wishes were horses,” said Luke, without really knowing what that meant, “we could make a horse of a different colour!”
“We should do it!”
“Put the truth on their posters.”
“You mean stickers,” said Joe, the only person who could follow Luke’s train of thought.
Isabel and Tania looked at each other and smiled.
“On’y thing is,” said Luke, “where do we get the stickers?”
“I s’pose you could ask Kris,” suggested Joe.
When they found the stall, which was always in town on Saturdays, only one person stood behind it and it wasn’t Kris.
“Hello you lot,” said Andy, “long time no see.”
“Hello,” said Tania.
“Hello,” said Isabel.
“Hello,” said Joe.
“Have you got any stickers?” asked Luke.
“No,” said Andy.
“Is Kris here?”
Andy looked under the table. “Erm, no, I’m afraid she isn’t.” He stood back up, “anything I can help you with?”
“Can I have one of these?” asked Joe, reaching for the red and green charities lists. Andy nodded.
“Oh, get one for me as well,” said Tania.
“And me,” said Luke.
“Anything else?” asked Andy.
They all shook their heads.
“No thanks,” said Isabel, “see ya.”
They hadn’t expected Andy to have what they were looking for but, still, they were disappointed.
“Maybe there’s a website we could order some from,” wondered Joe.
Luke’s eyes lit up. “Or,” he said, “we could do it with a marker pen!”
Joe wasn’t opposed to that idea but Tania and Isabel were.
“It’d take too long to write on every poster – much greater chance of being seen,” said Tania.
“Hang on a minute,” said Isabel, looking across the street at something. “I’ve got an idea!”
Tania knew what she was thinking and the two of them grabbed the boys’ arms and dragged them into WHSmith’s. They walked towards the back of the shop until they reached the stationery section and, more specifically, the printer paper.
“We don’t need ready-made stickers,” said Isabel, “we can make our own!”
Tania switched on her laptop, clicked Google Chrome and searched for how to print labels with OpenOffice. Isabel sat at her laptop which was connected to Tania’s dad’s printer. The boys stood behind her and watched.
“Open OpenOffice Writer,” Tania told her.
Isabel opened OpenOffice Writer.
“Click FILE, point to NEW and then select LABELS from the drop-down menu,” said Tania.
“Done,” said Isabel after a couple of seconds.
“Click the LABELS tab.”
“Now you need to choose the labels’ brand from the drop-down list where it says BRAND.”
“And then choose the label code from the list marked TYPE.”
“What’s our label code?”
“erm,” Joe pulled a sheet of sticky labels from the printer, “it says software code – is that it?”
“Let’s see,” said Isabel and she searched the list for the code he read to her.
“Okay. Under OPTIONS select ENTIRE PAGE.”
“Now click NEW DOCUMENT.”
As soon as Isabel did that, a page of blank labels appeared on the screen. Everyone smiled.
“That was easy,” said Luke.
“So far so good,” said Isabel. “Now, what do we want to put on them?”
“British Heart Foundation experiments on animals,” said Tania.
“And Cancer Research UK experiments on animals,” said Luke.
“Okay,” said Isabel, “let’s go down the red list and do a sheet for each charity that’s got a shop in town.”
“Right,” said Tania, picking up the list.
“Why don’t we just do one for all?” asked Joe.
“What d’you mean?”
“Well it’s not just shops we need ’em for. You never know when you’re gonna see a poster or an ad for any of these charities, so we need to always be prepared. We should have one sticker that’ll work for all of them.”
“Good idea,” said Tania, “something like ‘WE ARE VIVISECTORS’.”
“Yes!” said Luke.
Isabel shook her head. “We don’t want it to sound like name-calling. It’s got to be unarguable. An unemotional statement of fact.”
“WE FUND EXPERIMENTS ON ANIMALS,” said Joe.
Everyone nodded again and Isabel typed.
“Centre it,” said Tania, “and enlarge it to fill the label. Good. Now copy and paste it onto all of them.”
On Sunday at midday the Society met outside the bus station.
“If you get spotted, just walk away,” said Tania, “they can’t stop you.”
“No, that would be assault. All they can do is tell you to leave and ban you from coming back.”
Luke and Joe weren’t worried.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to get caught,” Isabel reminded them, “if anyone sees you they’ll just peel the stickers right off and we want them to stay on as long as possible. We’ve got to be discreet.”
“You’re very bossy for someone who’s new to bein’ sneaky,” said Luke. “Don’t worry about us, this is right up our wheelhouse.”
Tania and Isabel looked at each other uneasily.
“Mmm,” said Tania, tapping her fingers against her bottom lip, “but sometimes you’re loud.”
Luke grinned. “On’y when I need to be.”
Armed with eight strips of stickers each, the Society marched into town. First to get stuck was a BHF ad on a bus shelter. Luke put a sticker under the slogan “Fight For Every Heart Beat”. Next was a CRUK ad in front of the supermarket. Joe put a sticker under the slogan “This Is Race For Life”. Then there were three more bus stops. They displayed ads for Diabetes UK, BHF and Kidney Research UK. The Society made all of them more transparent.
“This street is looking decidedly more honest,” said Tania smiling.
When they got to the shops they decided to work in pairs. Joe and Isabel went into the British Heart Foundation, while Tania and Luke went two doors up to Cancer Research UK.
BHF wasn’t very busy and there was only one member of staff behind the counter. Joe tried to look like a normal shopper, picking things up, looking at them, deciding against them and putting them back down. Every time a customer approached the cashier, he took the opportunity to place a sticker somewhere – on a shelf in front of the books, on a price tag, on a rack of birthday cards. He made sure he wasn’t in view of any other customers first, but there weren’t many so that wasn’t difficult. Isabel, meanwhile, grabbed a couple of dresses off the rail and went straight to a changing cubicle. Safe behind the curtain, she affixed one sticker to the bottom right hand corner of the mirror and another to the poster on the wall. Then she decided against the dresses, returned them to the rail, chose an alternative and retreated to the second cubicle to do it all again. Emerging to find a woman waiting to try something on, she decided it was time to leave. Joe was already outside having successfully labelled the leaflet stand and the open door. He wanted to sticker the shop window too but Isabel shook her head. It wasn’t safe. Too many people around.
They got to the CRUK shop, which had several stickers on the window, just as Luke and Tania were coming out. The looks on their faces indicated their mission had been equally successful. The four of them walked away together in a slow, relaxed, unsuspicious manner.
“It’s cool being an activist,” said Tania.
“Yeah,” said Isabel, “I wanna do it again.”
“I don’t think there are any more bad charity shops here. Unless – what about Marie Curie?”
Isabel looked at the list. “No, Marie Curie’s on the green list – it does say they belong to the Association of Medical Research Charities which makes them say they support animal research on their website but they don’t actually do any.”
“I’ve seen charity ads on trains,” said Luke, “let’s go to the station!”
So the Society walked briskly to the railway station, passing as they did a big red British Heart Foundation collection bin begging for a couple of unarguable truths.
“I need some more,” said Luke.
“Why, how many have you got left?” asked Tania.
“One. How many have you got?”
Luke grinned. “Can I have some of yours then?”
Joe laughed. “How have you got through fifty five stickers?”
“I put ’em on the price tags.”
“On the clothes?”
“All of them?”
“As many as I could. I couldn’t do the last one coz the man was starin’ at me.”
The others looked at him without saying a word.
“What? I wasn’t loud,” he said defensively.
When they arrived at the station the ticket office was closed but the side gate to platform one was open. Joe cupped his hands around his eyes and peered through the waiting room window. A man sat on one of the benches, reading. Above him on the wall was a large painting of a steam train. Nothing else.
“Better check the other platform,” said Luke.
Over the bridge, at platform two, a four coach train sat idle and empty. The doors were all open so Luke climbed aboard. After looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching, Joe followed him.
The girls checked out the waiting room and found a large rack full of leaflets. They removed and bagged everything advertising zoos, aquariums and farm parks before dividing a huge pile of Action Medical Research leaflets and sitting down to add some unemotional statements of fact. When they were about half way through they were startled by an announcement that the train now standing on platform two was the 13:55 service to London Euston. Tania stood up and looked out the window.
“Are they there?” asked Isabel.
“Can’t see them but they must have heard that. Mustn’t they?”
“I can’t reach.”
“Stand on the seat.”
Luke checked the carriage was still empty before doing as Joe suggested. “There,” he said, “that looks good doesn’t it, as though it was meant to be there.”
A fast repeating pinging sound preceded the whoosh of the closing doors. “This is the Urban City Link service to London Euston, calling at Antsworth, Merton Abbot, Furling, Furling Airport Parkway and London Euston.”
“Uh oh,” said Luke.
Joe rushed to the door and repeatedly pressed the OPEN button.
“It’s not gonna open now,” said Luke, “the train’s moving.”
“I don’t wanna go to London!” said Joe, “what shall we do? Pull the cord?”
“It’s alright,” said Luke, “we’ll just get off at the next station and catch another train back.”
“But we haven’t got a ticket! Have you got any money?”
“Nor have I! So we can’t buy a ticket!”
Luke laughed. “Stop panickin’. There’s prob’ly not even a ticket checker on here.”
“I haven’t seen one, have you?”
“Well I didn’t see a driver either but I’m guessin’ there’s one of them on here.”
“First thing’s first,” said Luke, “we need to check the other three carriages for ads like that one.”
They walked from the fourth to the third carriage where a woman sat with her dog at one end, and a man watched telly on his computer half way down. There were no ads that needed fixing so they continued on to the second carriage. The second carriage contained a family of four at a table in the middle and a couple of teenagers at the far end. Again there were no ads that needed fixing so they continued on to the first. As they opened the connecting door the automated announcement informed them that they were now approaching Antsworth. Luke saw an ad the same as the one in the fourth carriage so he pulled out his stickers and labelled it while the train slowed down and the platform came into view.
“Come on, we’d better get off,” said Joe, very relieved that there hadn’t been a ticket checker and a little embarrassed that he’d panicked for nothing. When the train stopped the OPEN button lit up and Joe pressed it. They were about to step off when Luke noticed another of the same ads at the front of the carriage and rushed down there to deal with it.
“Don’t say my name!” Within seconds Luke was up on the seat affixing a sticker.
“Hey!” The conductor appeared out of nowhere. “No feet on the seats!”
“Sorry,” said Luke, jumping down.
“Quick!” called Joe.
Luke ran back to Joe as the fast repeating ping told them the doors were about to close.
“No running!” commanded the conductor.
“Sorry,” said Luke again before exiting sideways between the closing doors and landing safely on the platform.
Joe took a deep breath and exhaled.
“When’s the next train back?” asked Luke.
“I dunno, we’ll have to go over the other side.”
There was a twenty three minute wait for the next train to Belton which was put to good use in the Antsworth waiting rooms.
“You know they have CCTV cameras on trains,” said Tania when they finally got back.
“Really?” Luke scratched his chin. “Oh well.”
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