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11/05/2007

Charity fields complaints over 'naked man' posters

A Northern Ireland charity has come under fire because it has been blamed for a rival’s poster campaign.

The Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association (NICHS) has been flooded with complaints over billboard posters which feature a naked man and a woman in a swimsuit embracing on a beach.

The poster conveys the message that sex and swimming are among a number of 30 minute cardio-vascular exercises that are good for the heart.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), the charity behind the campaign say the image has been successful.

However, the NICHS Chief Executive Andrew Dougal has revealed people have threatened to stop donating to the charity over the posters.

“It is ironic that our policy down through the years has been to avoid shocking or frightening people, and here we are taking the flak for the actions of a charity based in London with which we have absolutely no connection,” he said.

“We have had letters and phone calls from people threatening not to give us any more money.

“In fact, we understand their views entirely. Part of the problem, we believe, is that the BHF has dropped the word British from its title in Northern Ireland, so people assume that there’s only one local heart charity.”

Mr Dougal also said there were a number of complaints regarding other BHF advertisements which show a skin-coloured belt tightening around a man’s chest to depict a heart attack, and another of a girl drinking cooking oil from the bottle.

However, he said the level of complaints had intensified this time.

“It angers our volunteers and the people we care for that we are being viewed in this way when we have always tried to be responsible.”

He continued: “We would appeal to the BHF to withdraw these posters – not just because they offend the sensibilities of many local people, but because they are damaging the cause of raising money to combat heart disease.”

He said the charity’s supporters were not prudes but they knew “where to draw the line when advising people on healthier lifestyles.”

(JM/SP)

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