Ulster says no to animal cruelty
Many people in Northern Ireland would describe themselves as "animal lovers", but the stories of cruelty which make the headlines clearly expose those in our midst whose sadistic behaviour is shocking and indefensible.
Despite the best attempts of protection groups, many of the people guilty of cruelty appear to get off lightly in the courts, and it is clear that a concerted effort is needed to help defenceless animals, which become the victims of those who have no pity or even a conscience about doing such wrong.
It is encouraging, therefore, to note that upwards of a thousand people attended a rally at Belfast City Hall yesterday to put animal rights back into the headlines and to provide a "voice for the voiceless".
The new support group, Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty, is asking for the PSNI to establish a dedicated unit to deal specifically with the abuse of animals, and it is only by keeping up the public pressure that they will have any chance of success.
Deputy leader of the Alliance Party, Naomi Long MP, who is one of the most dedicated and articulate politicians in Northern Ireland, was present at yesterday's rally, and her highly-respected voice will add momentum to the campaign.
One of the difficulties in furthering this good cause is that most people are not sure how they can make their own voices heard.
Some of the stories have been so sickening that it is difficult for readers and viewers to work out precisely how they can help, and the reality is that once the story disappears from the headlines, the public's attention is directed elsewhere.
On occasion an animal cruelty story, such as that of Norman the greyhound, stays in the mind. This poor animal had both of its ears hacked off by a mutilator in an attempt to hide its ownership, which could be traced through its ear tattoos.
Luckily the animal found a caring owner, and Norman took centre stage in yesterday's rally to remind people of what can happen to a defenceless animal.
Sadly, however, there are many stories which do not have such a positive ending. The cruelty is continuing, and animal groups need all the help they can get from the public to make sure that the protective legislation is enforced and that guilty people are rightly called to account for their cruelty.