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White poppy sales break all records

Students selling white poppies at Exeter University this year

White poppy sales break all records

Sales of white poppies in 2018 are higher than in any previous year since white poppies were founded in 1933.

The Peace Pledge Union – the organisation that supplies and distributes white poppies - has sold 119,555 white poppies this year, as of the end of yesterday (Wednesday 7 November). The number is bound to rise further in the remaining days until Remembrance Sunday.

The previous record was 110,000 white poppies in 2015. Last year, the figure was 101,000. Until 2014, the record was around 80,000 in 1938.

The rise comes despite a stream of abuse against white poppy wearers on social media, and attacks on white poppy wearers from public figures including Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and broadcaster Piers Morgan.

The PPU said that the rise in sales was a sign of more and more people wishing to remember victims of war by working for peace. They said they represent growing resistance to narrow nationalistic agendas that confine remembrance to the British armed forces.

White poppies represent remembrance for all victims of war of all nationalities, a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism.

The Royal British Legion, who produce red poppies, argue that remembrance should be concerned only with British and allied armed forces personnel. They also say that the red poppy demonstrates “support for the armed forces”.

News of the record-breaking white poppy sales comes as the PPU and other peace organisations prepare for Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremonies in London and elsewhere this weekend.

The number of shops and other outlets known to be selling white poppies has risen by almost a third, while there have been 70 orders for the White Poppies for Schools pack – more than double the figure for last year. There were 34 orders for the new White Poppies for Churches pack, piloted this year.

The Schools pack is produced jointly by the PPU and Forces Watch, while the Churches pack is produced jointly by the PPU and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Sophie Morrison of the Peace Pledge Union said:

“In a world where the news is full of violence and the rise of nationalism, it is encouraging to see so many people upholding different values. In the centenary of the end of World War One, revulsion at the wastefulness of war is leading many people to remember the victims of war by working for peace.

“Of course we are very pleased to have distributed so many white poppies but it is the meaning behind the symbol that matters. If everyone who wears a white poppy takes action against militarism and war, and works for peace and active nonviolence, that would be a fitting memorial to the millions of civilians and combatants whose lives have been
wasted in war.”

The majority of white poppies are bought directly from the PPU. In addition over 100 shops, cafes, faith groups and other outlets are known to be selling white poppies around the UK, after buying their initial stock from the PPU. 

At a local level, groups selling white poppies often give money raised to charities supporting victims of war. Many white poppy wearers also make donations to charities supporting people affected by war. At a national level, any more raised above the cost of production and distribution goes towards the PPU's education and campaigning work, promoting nonviolent approaches to conflict and challenging militarism.

White poppy wearers will hold an Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony at Tavistock Square in London, at 1.00pm on Sunday. Similar events will take place elsewhere.