There has been a stand outside my work all week with a picture of a cute Labrador puppy on it, with two men standing nearby, attempting to get sponsors for Guide dogs for the blind. I haven’t seen too many people stop to sign up, but those are the times we live in. Everyone is thinking more about their impending electricity bill than the training of aids for blind people.
I feel bad when I leave work every day. The two guys who work for the charity probably have quotas, just like everybody else and I want to help them out. I’ve known guide dog puppy walkers, visited some of the centres run by the charity and I know how invaluable their services are. However, I will not be filling in a form and signing the dotted line.
The simple reason for this? I do not, and will not, give money to charity.
That sounds completely heartless, so I will explain myself. I come from a very charitable family. My mum especially, wants to save every whale, feed every child and recycle every piece of paper. My cousin Jane organised a fantastic fundraiser for those suffering in Syria right now. I have inherited this attitude and have to put all the problems of the world on hold in my brain sometimes, for fear it might explode.
Guide dogs for the blind is so familiar to us all, that I think many forget that it’s actually a charity. It costs £35,000 just to raise and train the dog, as well as a further £13,000 “maintaining” the dog until retirement. One blind person could need up to eight dogs in their lifetime, each costing this amount. There are almost two million people in the UK living with sight loss. You don’t even need to do the maths to see what a huge cost this is. And it relies entirely on the public.
As I’m sure you know by now, the UK government is in the process of renewing its nuclear weapons, known as “Trident”, as the ones we have are getting on a bit now. The government has put the bill at between £15 and £20 billion, but Greenpeace claim the costs could rise as high as £34 billion.
And this is why I do not give to charity. I will not donate money to worthwhile causes whilst the government spends my tax money on causes that are designed to kill people.
It’s a bit like giving up meat on the principle that you don’t believe in animals dying for food. Cows are still going to go to slaughter but you feel a bit better about your choices. I know that charity will always exist. Me not giving to charity will not suddenly cause the government to re-think their policies. But it means I have some kind of principles.
What would happen if nobody gave money to Guide dogs for the blind, or Macmillan nurses? Would the government let the blind stumble around and cancer patients go without much-needed support and care?
There are children in poverty, scientists struggling to find cures to terrible illnesses, animals being put down because they cannot be kept on forever in kennels, foreign workers being smuggled in for the sex trade. This is being paid for by charities all over the country. Why?
Despite all the recent argy-bargy from North Korea lately, we have no enemies. It would actually be a better gesture if we decided not to renew them, or came up with a cheaper alternative. Bluntly, we are paying for services that the government couldn’t be bothered to deal with once upon a time; those dedicated to helping the poor and the suffering. As we know, from the fact that the NHS has just been privatised, this has come full circle. We will probably need the help of these brilliant charities more than ever. I just won’t be putting my hand in my pocket.