Six Protesters Arrested as Baby Seal Slaughter Gets Under Way in Canada
The carnage has begun once again. In what is arguably the world's most gruesome example of man's cruelty and exploitation of animals, Canada's annual harp seal hunt got underway Saturday in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Bloodthirsty, maniacal seal hunters with dollar signs flashing in their dilated pupils descended upon baby harp seals as young as twelve-days old and clubbed them to death with hakapicks (ice picks mounted on wooden clubs). (See photo above.)
Soon the ice floes turned to crimson with the blood of innocent seals (See photo below) whose only offense was to be worth more dead than alive to certain monsters who strut around on two legs. In the first two days of the hunt, 3,000-4,000 seals have already been exterminated. A total of ninety-one-thousand seals will be slaughtered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this week and next before the hunt moves to the north coast of Newfoundland and Labrador on April 4th where an additional 224,000 seals will be killed.
Actually, the hunt has been under way since November 15th of last year when aboriginal and Inuit sealers in the Yukon Territories, the Arctic Ocean, and off Canada's East Coast inaugurated the killing spree. When the hunt finally ends, 325,000 seals will have been slaughtered which will bring the total since 2004 to more than one million.
Along with the commencement of the hunt came the inevitable violent clashes between the murderers and animal rights activists. On Sunday, six members of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were arrested by Canadian officials when they allegedly ventured too close to the sealers. A cameraman for Reuters who was on an inflatable raft with the team from the HSUS was also detained.
On Saturday, the hunters threw pieces of dead seals at the protesters and on Sunday they rammed their boat (See photo below). As has been the case in past years, the Canadian authorities are once again following a policy whereby they turn a blind eye to the blatantly criminal activities of the hunters while at the same time going out of their way to arrest the peaceful protesters without cause. If this one-sided policy is not changed, there are likely going to be human fatalities.
While Canadian officials lamely argue that the mass murders are necessary in order to keep the seal population in check, the real motivation behind the hunt is, of course, money. The seals are exterminated primarily for their pelts which are worth about $70 apiece to fashion designers in Norway, China, and Russia. The take this year is expected to be in excess of $14.5 million which will be divided amongst the approximately 4,000 commercial sealers participating in the carnage. Although the hunters claim that they desperately need this blood money in order to make ends meet, in reality it accounts for less than five per cent of their total annual income.
Because of global warming, water temperatures off of Canada are about 4.5 degrees Celsius warmer than in past years and this is causing the ice floes to melt. As the result, some of the baby seals are drowning in the icy waters before they are old enough to swim and thus depriving the sealers of their pelts. This is also forcing the hunters to shoot some of the seals from boats as opposed to bludgeoning them to death on the ice floes with hakapicks.
Although the sealers and the politicians who protect them contend that the hunt is humane, they are all inveterate liars and this is proven by photographs, videos, and eyewitness accounts. "I routinely witness conscious seals dragged across the ice with boathooks, wounded seals left to choke on their own blood, and seals being skinned alive," (See photo of a seal carcass below) Rebecca Aldworth of the HSUS told Reuters on March 3rd. (See "Rocker McCartney Takes to Ice to Save Canada Seals.") "The commercial seal hunt in inherently cruel -- it is a national disgrace," she added.
Mark Glover of the English animal rights group Respect for Animals termed the hunt "extreme unregulated animal cruelty." On March 16th, he told London's Independent, "The video evidence, and what I have personally witnessed out there, is absolutely intolerable. The hunters run from seal to seal hitting as many of them as possible, leaving them in excruciating pain while they rush to the next animal -- all for a product nobody needs." (See "Britain Told to Sever Links with 'Cruel' Seal Cull.")
A 2001 veterinarian report confirmed that almost half of the seals examined had been conscious when skinned and that this caused "considerable and unacceptable suffering." (See The Independent, March 20, 2006, "Canada Defends Seal Cull While World Calls for a Trade Boycott.") In fact, some wounded seals take as long as ninety minutes to die.
Although under the rules of the hunt, seals are not supposed to be killed until their white fur turns gray at about two-three weeks of age, Robbie Marsland of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) told Toronto's Globe and Mail on March 27th that he had witnessed seals as young as twelve-days-old being massacred. (See photo below of two baby seals still molting.)
On the positive side, this year's hunt has attracted the attention of a number of high-profile celebrities. French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot, who was one of the first really big stars to call attention to the hunt way back in the 1970s, visited Ottawa last week but was snubbed by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. "Canada is a rich country. It doesn't need to sell skin, oil, fat and powdered seal penises to make aphrodisiacs for countries in Asia... You cannot continue a genocide of animals like this," she told the BBC on March 26th. ( See "Canada Seal Cull Gets Under Way.")
Bardot was joined at a press conference in Ottawa by actress Persia White of the American TV show "Girlfriends" and famed seal and whale defender Paul Watson of Sea Shephered. Due to the fact that eleven members of his crew are not allowed into Canada because of their past activities in defense of the seals, Watson has only two observers at the hunt this year. Also his ship, the Farley Mowat, has been detained in Cape Town for several months allegedly because of pressure exerted on the South African authorities by the Japanese in retaliation for Watson's efforts to save the whales from slaughter. (See Cat Defender post of January 27, 2006 entitled "Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace Run Out of Fuel Leaving Minke Whales to the Mercy of Japanese Harpooners.")
It was on March 2nd, however, that opponents of the hunt recorded their biggest coup when Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills visited the ice floes off the Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and posed for pictures with a baby seal (See photo below). "We just believe that ... for this whole place to be a sea of red, and for these pups we're seeing today to be dead, just for their fur, is just not something that should be happening in this day and age," Paul is quoted by Reuters as saying in the March 3rd report cited supra.
Heather meanwhile lamented the fact that in a few weeks the seal pups would be dead. "Stellen Sie sich vor, Sie haben ein Kind, und dieses Baby wird vor Ihren Augen fur Pelzmode mit einem Holzknuppel zu Tode geprugelt," she is quoted as saying in the March 3rd edition of the Aachener Zeitung. (See "Paul McCartney besucht Robbenbabys und fordert Ende der Jagd.")
Paul further implored the sealers to abandon the hunt and to instead seek their livelihoods through eco-tourism and, in particular, the promotion of whale-watching. While acknowledging that seal hunting has been going on for hundreds of years, he rejected the notion that this in and of itself justified its continuance. "Viele Dinge hat es sehr lange Zeit gegeben, zum Beispiel Sklaverei und Apartheid." (See the Aachener Zeitung article cited supra.)
A day later Paul and Heather debated Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, on CNN's Larry King Live. Williams began by arguing that the hunt was humane and that no seals were clubbed to death but video footage and eyewitness accounts quickly proved him to be a liar. He next resorted to labeling defenders of the seals as terrorists but this accusation was so ludicrous that it was laughable.
Paul and Heather are involved in a number of important animal rights issues including attempting to put an end to the trafficking in cat and dog pelts. (See Cat Defender post of December 15, 2005 entitled "Heather Mills Asks EU to Ban Sale of Cat and Dog Fur; Paul McCartney Calls for Boycott of Chinese Goods and Olympics.") They have also campaigned against Covance's attempt to build an animal research laboratory in Arizona. (See Stern, March 9, 2006, "McCartney gegen Tierversuche.")
Other than the Canadian political establishment, the only well-known groups craven enough to support the hunt are the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). The WWF and its sister organization, National Wildlife, are both frauds and much the same thing can be said for the CVMA which has issued a special report calling the seal hunt humane.
To its credit, the United States has banned the importation of seal products since 1972 and the EU has banned white seal pelts from its shores since 1983. A boycott of Canadian seafood has received the support of four-hundred restaurants, supermarkets, and seafood wholesalers in America. In particular, Canadian snow crab exports have declined by approximately $45 million since last year and pressure is being brought to bear upon Red Lobster to stop purchasing Canadian seafood. Recently, Trader Joe's and Whole Food Market have joined the boycott.
In England, pressure is being exerted on supermarkets to stop stocking Canadian seafood and upon travel agencies in an effort to dissuade tourists from visiting Canada. Similar efforts to ban the importation of Canadian seafood are also under way in France, Deutschland, Holland, Spain, Denmark, Mexico, and Japan. Canada exports $3.1 billion worth of seafood to the United States each year and $110 million to Old Blighty. Throughout the month of March protests have been held in major cities around the world, such as in Wien (See photo above), against the hunt.
In the final analysis, the seal hunt must be ended because it is immoral and abominably cruel. Although the Canadian media are going to great lengths to cover up the atrocities and to malign protesters such as McCartney (CBC's As It Happens, for example) and Bardot, in this case seeing is definitely believing. "None of the photographs or footage you (sic) seen of the seal cull prepares you for the real thing," English Labor MP Ian Cawsey is quoted as saying in the March 16th edition of The Independent cited supra. "The fearful sounds of the seals, the savagery of the clubbing, the ice turning red as the blood seeps away and the steaming, skinned and abandoned corpses. It is difficult to understand the mentality behind this cull. It needs to be ended," he added.
Photos: Reuters (sealer with hakapick, HSUS' inflatable rafts and hunter's boat, seal carcass, and live seals), Indybay.org (bloody seal corpses), Agence France Presse (Paul and Heather), and Sea Shepherd (Wien protest).