February 19, 2003, VANCOUVER - Animals are also victims of the Internet’s explosive growth with a number of websites dedicated to inflicting cruelty to animals according to The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). "Earlier this year, three people in Newfoundland were charged with trafficking in big game parts - moose and caribou antlers. The antlers were being sold through a popular Internet auction site," says Al Hickey, Western Regional Director for The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).
In another recent cyber cruelty case, a joint operation by American and Canadian wildlife officials led to the multimillion seizures of 368 bear galls in Ontario and Quebec. "This kind of cruelty puts a price on the head of every living bear," says HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan. "And this is only the tip of the iceberg".
O’Sullivan says his charity has been tracking wildlife smugglers, websites selling illegal traps, companies offered penned hunting and big game hunts, and people promoting the cruel treatment of animals: "In one case, we alerted federal authorities in the United States, and we were able to shutdown the site. But the offender kept moving his website from server to server".
He says that following an Internet trail through cyberspace requires expertise and patience. The work is time consuming and often frustrating. "The Internet is the new frontier with a dominant culture that vigorously encourages freedom of expression and speech at all costs. Even if someone is promoting cruelty to animals, and even if the company hosting the website agrees that they don’t like it, they will protect the person’s right to express themselves".
However, this is an old story for O’Sullivan, and one that is simply being played out in a different arena: "I’ve been fighting this kind of cruelty to animals all of my life. Animal abusers have found a new way to inflict suffering on animals, and we need to go after them, one by one, and shut them down," he said.
The Humane Society of Canada will not give examples of any of the websites they are tracking because O’Sullivan says that would comprise their ongoing investigations and even worse provide animal abusers with publicity that would only drive more traffic to their sites. Angry hackers have also retaliated against The Humane Society of Canada trying repeatedly to break into their website and server. The charity set up special safeguards and so far has been able to resist the cyber attacks.
"We know that cruelty to animals is linked with violence against people. Animals are facing new threats and we are relying on the help and vigilance of a concerned and caring public now more than ever before," he said.
The Humane Society of Canada is asking anyone who sees something on the Internet involving animals that they feel is cruel or illegal to contact their local authorities or the Humane Society of Canada at 1-800-641-KIND (5463) or www.humanesociety.com.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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