Provocative posters comparing people who have learning disabilities to pets have been heavily criticised by animal rights groups.

The posters were unveiled yesterday by Enable Scotland to mark the beginning of a campaign to highlight the problems learning disability charities face when raising funds Enable, the leading charity in Scotland for children and adults with learning disabilities, wants the posters to show that animal charities attract almost twice as many donors as disability charities.

In the UK 11.1% of the population donate to animal charities, while just 6.6% pledge cash to disability charities.

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However, the campaign has been condemned for creating conflict between two sets of charities.

John Robins, secretary of the charities Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund, said: "Enable Scotland is skating on thin ice in a pair of tackety boots.

"They forget that the welfare state was established to ensure that the educational and health needs of the people of this country would be paid for through our taxes.

"If they think more money is needed to pay for special education programmes then they should be attacking government for failing to fulfil its duties."

He added: "There is no welfare state for animals. There is no Children in Need Day for animals. People who choose to support animal charities have already paid for the welfare state through their taxes.

"It is not their fault that groups like Enable Scotland cannot convince the government to spend our money properly."

The posters will appear on FirstGroup buses and trains across Scotland during the six-week long campaign which was launched yesterday with the help of Paula Sage and Lorraine McIntosh, actresses from the BBC Scotland soap River City.

Miss Sage plays Donna McCabe in River City who has Down's Syndrome. She said: "This is a really strong campaign that will make people think differently about children and adults with learning disabilities."

Norman Dunning, chief executive of Enable Scotland, said he made no apologies for the controversial nature of the posters.

He said: "There is only government support for the kind of services we want because of the lobbying that we do. All of our campaigning activity is all paid for from our voluntary income.

"The fact is there is still a long way to go in terms of getting the state to pay for services for disabled people. We are not having a go at animal charities, but at public perceptions."

John Spence, president of Enable Scotland, added: "We want to make people really think about who benefits from their charitable donations. At present there are 120,000 people with learning disabilities in Scotland and they are desperate to be independent, find a job or possibly just find a friend to make their lives less insular."