A LEADING cancer charity has turned down a £30,000 donation from the organiser of sponsored bird shoots because it does not approve of the way the money was raised.
The Institute of Cancer Research was also concerned that its staff might be targeted by animal rights extremists if it publicly accepted the gift. Critics slammed the charity's decision, saying that it "beggars belief" and was "utterly ridiculous".
The money was raised by Barry Atkinson, an artist and designer, who told sponsors that their money would be divided between two charities: the National Gamekeepers' Organisation's Charitable Trust (NGOCT) and the Institute of Cancer Research. To raise it, he carried out a record 148 days of beating at 148 different grouse, partridge and pheasant shoots in 66 counties. At a shoot, the beater flushes out the birds for the guns to shoot at.
Mr Atkinson named his charity fund Spider's Appeal, in honour of his 12-year-old English Springer spaniel, Spider, which was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour last year. He says Spider is now doing well and putting on weight.
The NGOCT, which raises money to educate gamekeepers and inform the public about their work, gratefully accepted its cheque for £30,000 at a presentation at its annual meeting in Stafford last Thursday.
Officials from the cancer charity declined to attend the presentation, however, so on Friday Mr Atkinson sent the bulk of his donation to its London headquarters. He says that he had already sent an initial cheque for £1,218 in November. He has now been told that the money will be returned.
Philip Black, the director of fund raising for the Institute of Cancer Research, declined to discuss his charity's decision, but issued a statement admitting that the donation would not be accepted.
"The institute recognises the necessity of minimising pain and suffering in animals," the statement said. "Consequently we advised Mr Atkinson of our position before he started fund-raising. We have subsequently discovered that we accepted a donation which will be returned; the further donation will not be accepted."
The charity spends about £45 million a year on cancer research, using money from grants, fund-raising and legacies.
Mr Atkinson, 61, who lives near Newark, Nottinghamshire, is furious that his cheques are to be returned. "The whole situation beggars belief," he said. "I am bitterly disappointed and very angry. It reveals a deep-rooted attitude against field sports in general and shooting in particular, which is based on misunderstanding and misinformation."
Mr Atkinson said he had discussed the project with an official from the cancer charity last year.
The charity and its staff have been targeted by animal rights extremists in the past because its cancer research includes tests on rodents.
The rejected donation will be offered to another cancer charity, probably Cancer Research UK.
A member of the board of trustees for the Institute of Cancer Research, who was unaware that the donation had been rejected until he was told by the Sunday Telegraph, who broke the story, said: "The world has gone utterly mad. I am not comfortable with the official position of the charity on this issue."