Philippine animal torturers on the run

26 July 2011 - 15:40 By Sapa-AFP

A Philippine couple is on the run after being charged with making dozens of videos showing teenage girls torturing and killing animals.

The videos were sold via secretive Internet chat groups to people overseas who wanted to watch the footage for thrills, said Rochelle Regodon, Asia campaign manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

"The videos just tear your heart out. This disgustingly cruel enterprise must be stopped," Regodon said at a news conference where some of the clips were screened.

In the videos, girls wearing mini-skirts and high heels cut the ears off rabbits with scissors before being setting them on fire, burned a dog with a clothes iron and stood on puppies.

After PETA reported the crimes to authorities, police charged a husband and wife in the northern Philippines with animal cruelty, child abuse and human trafficking.

But the couple fled before being arrested, and PETA said Tuesday it was offering a reward of 100,000 pesos ($2,300) for information leading to their capture.

Regodon said clients overseas could look at excerpts of the so-called "crush" videos online, then order the full-length clips by sending a money transfer to the Philippine couple.

Prices ranged from $80 for one video to $200 for three clips, according to Regodon.

She said the operation, which was believed to have existed for two years, was uncovered after someone in Russia contacted PETA with information about the videos.

The Russian informant, who had infiltrated the chat groups where "crush video" fans gathered online, posed as a genuine customer, according to Regodon.

The informant gained access to 68 short videos and enough information to help trace the organisers to the northern Philippine province of La Union.

Six girls aged between 12 and 18 had been coerced into the cruel acts after initially being lured to the couple's home to work as babysitters, PETA said.

While this was the first "crush" video case in the Philippines, there have been many cases in recent years of police raiding operations in which girls and women perform sex acts in front of cameras for overseas Internet clients.

Widespread poverty drives the girls and women into the "cybersex" business.