Support for criticised Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Philanthropist locks horns with Sidmouth animal charity over his bid to classify charities

CRICITCISM of Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary on a breakfast TV programme has raised the profile of the international charity and boosted its donations.

Dawn Vincent, its senior PR officer, locked horns with leading philanthropist Martin Brookes on BBC TV’s Breakfast last Thursday, after he argued the case for a ‘taxonomy’ of charities to classify the most and least worthy causes in a national newspaper.

Mr Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital, said the Sanctuary raised more in donations (�22 million a year) than charities fighting violence against women.

However Dawn, granddaughter of the charity’s founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, MBE, said the Sanctuary was not just caring for a few hundred donkeys in Sidmouth, but promoting the health and welfare of donkeys in 28 countries

“We are reaching out to millions of these humble creatures worldwide and have been for the past 40 years,” she said.

“Making a judgement about the worthiness of any charity is surely a personal decision, and the British public are free to make their own choices about who they wish to support.”

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After the show, the charity’s website received 300 extra hits and viewers e-mailed it with offers of support and donations.

“I have heard nothing negative. There are 200,000 charities in the UK and only a small handful are dedicated to animal welfare, so animal lovers are much more focussed on giving.”

Dawn said 90 percent of all donations were spent on donkey welfare worldwide. The charity employs 500 staff internationally.

Marianne Steel, the Sanctuary’s director of fund-raising and marketing appeared on radio following the article.

She said: “We have been put in a negative situation for a couple of years (by Mr Brookes).

“We have had an overwhelming response from people saying they should have the freedom to choose animal charities to support.

“I think Martin is surprised at the backlash of public opinion. People give to animals rather than humans because they feel humans can speak for themselves.”