By JAMIE BAKER AND ROB ANTLE, The Telegram
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is promoting a new anti-sealing campaign targeting Newfoundland tourism and small businesses.
The campaign instructions posted on the ALF website call it an "exciting new strategy designed to strike a deathblow to the seal slaughter."
The strategy "targets vulnerable, small tourist-based businesses in Canada�s sealing communities" and is "designed to inflict economic pain on a personal level," the ALF message notes.
The new campaign involves a sophisticated � but fake � Newfoundland and Labrador tourism website.
The site is constructed to look like a typical tourism portal, with a typical URL, or Internet address � www.tour-newfoundlandlabrador.com. It features photo galleries, a section on culture and tradition, and a "people�s welcome."
Each section, however, is largely dedicated to anti-sealing messages � including purported quotes from Newfoundlanders, and gory photos of dead seals.
Under the "what�s new" category, the website features less-than-flattering stories about "many of the newsworthy highlights about life in Newfoundland and Labrador."
Those include reports headlined Booze Ban Sparks Mass Resignation at Newfoundland Fire Hall, along with Fishermen In Need of New Image.
ALF has had involvement in other anti-sealing campaigns this year.
On April 17, ALF issued a communique claiming responsibility for bomb threats at Red Lobster restaurants in four American communities.
Some anti-sealing groups have pressured Red Lobster to stop selling Canadian seafood.
"Consider getting your meal to go next time you support the murder of baby seals by dining at Red Lobster," the communique said.
While the ALF is promoting the campaign, it�s not clear exactly who is behind it.
ALF�s webmaster, Ann Berlin, told The Telegram "it was sent to us as a site that contained relevant information, so we linked to it."
The creator of the fake tourism website is hiding its identity by using a privacy-protection firm as an intermediary in the registration process.
The fake site is registered to a company called Domains By Proxy Inc., located in Scottsdale, Ariz.
For a fee, Domains By Proxy substitutes its contact information for that of the site�s real creator and owner.
Messages sent to the fake website�s Domains By Proxy e-mail address went unreturned Thursday.
The website claims to be "created in Canada by caring Canadians."
There is no contact information on the website for its creators, however.
The site does allow visitors to send messages of condemnation to hundreds of tourism-related businesses in the province.
And it also provides contact information for a host of municipal, provincial and federal politicians.
Two of the highest-profile anti-sealing organizations have denied any involvement in the campaign.
Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says she has seen the website and made some inquires � especially since some of the site�s layout and photos are similar to those used by the HSUS � but that the website is "definitely not us."
"I�ve been asking around and all anyone will say is that it�s Canadians � that�s the only thing," she said. "Everybody is being very closed-mouth about it, so I actually don�t know."
Aldworth, referring to the HSUS-driven Canadian seafood boycott, said her organization prefers to exert economic pressure on Canada via the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery in its campaign to end the seal hunt.
"That�s the only thing in history that we�ve actually seen change policy," she said. "We want to speak directly to the people in charge of the seal hunt, which is the DFO and the people actually doing the hunt.
"I think one of the things Newfoundland businesses should be concerned about is that the boycott could spread, as we are seeing it do � but this (website) isn�t us."
A spokesman with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is also denying any connection or affiliation with the site, saying the IFAW "doesn�t use front groups or �astroturf-type� sites to disseminate our position on the seal hunt, or any other issue, for that matter."