BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Human embryo cloning PR battle hots up

Pro-life groups ramped up their PR efforts this week to make plain

their condemnation of human embryo research following the creation of

the first embryonic human clone in the US.



Political campaigners The ProLife Alliance and charity LIFE have been

quick to put emergency media relations plans in place in a bid to

counter positive coverage of the announcement made earlier this week by

US-based biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT).



Despite small PR budgets and a lack of dedicated in-house PROs, the

pro-life groups are beefing up their ongoing lobbying, educational and

PR campaigns.



LIFE confirmed it immediately issued a press notice opposing the

research and has since been placing spokespeople around the country on

standby for numerous media interviews.



National LIFE chairman Professor Jack Scarisbrick said they are also

actively targeting MPs and Lords to keep them informed of the

issues.



'We are dependent on three spokespeople and local LIFE employees who are

available to do interviews,' said Scarisbrick. 'We are are battling to

get people to understand that all human life is equal - PR and education

are the only vehicles for this.'



Those groups against human embryonic cloning have a tough challenge in

getting their messages across to the media, especially when

well-resourced private sector opponents have more funds available for

PR.



'It's a David and Goliath situation,' said ProLife Alliance director

Bruno Quintavalle, who is pushing for a global ban on all forms of

cloning.



'We don't have a big PR machine, but we are doing what we can to put our

messages across.'



On the other side of the argument, ACT is busy communicating the

potential benefits of its research in the UK and US, desperate to put

across the message that they are not 'cloning human beings, but

developing life-saving therapies'.



This message has been backed up by sufferer support groups, such as the

Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS), which has been campaigning in favour

of stem cell research for 18 months.



PDS PR manager Greg Vines said they will continue to target MPs, Lords

and MEPs directly and through the media, often putting forward its

members - Parkinson's sufferers - as spokespeople.



As the Government prepares to rush emergency legislation on embryonic

cloning through the House of Lords, the PR battle is hotting up on all

sides.



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