Rebecca Aldworth: Seal Hunt Witness- “This Was the Cruelest Slaughter I Have Ever Seen.”

Last week, Humane Society International flew to the ice floes off Canada’s east coast to document and expose the cruelty of the commercial seal slaughter.

What we saw was horrific. Baby seals, some as young as two weeks of age, were shot and wounded and bludgeoned in front of each other. One baby seal, who had been shot and then impaled on a metal hook and dragged onto a boat while still conscious, raised his head and cried out repeatedly from a pile of bloody seal carcasses onto which he’d been thrown. Countless pups were shot in the back, the neck or the jaw and suffered in agony until sealers finally arrived to club them to death.

In the thirteen years I have observed commercial sealing in Canada at close range, this was without a doubt the cruelest slaughter I have ever seen. It is devastating to know that all of this suffering happened just to produce seal fur for fashion items no one needs.

This is a cruel and pointless slaughter, and one that independent scientists argue threatens the survival of seal populations, particularly in light of the impacts of climate change. Harp seals, which are the target of the seal slaughter, are ice dependent animals. They rely on sea ice to give birth to and nurse their pups, and the pups need the ice to remain intact until they are strong enough to survive in open water.

This year, a record low sea ice cover caused hundreds of thousands of baby seals to die when the sea ice melted too soon in the season. A Canadian government scientist estimated half of the seal pups born in Atlantic Canada in 2011 would die as a result. Unbelievably, the Canadian government responded by setting the highest quota for seals in history, authorizing sealers to kill over 468,000 of them.

Luckily, sealers will not kill anywhere near that number.

In 2009, the 27-nation European Union banned its trade in seal products, removing a primary market for Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. Prices for seal fur in Canada crashed, and more than half a million baby seals have been spared the slaughter in the past two years as a result. Seal fur prices remain low in 2011, and most fishermen are choosing not to kill seals this year. On the opening days of the seal hunt we saw fewer sealing boats operating than I have ever observed. In an area where hundreds of sealing vessels normally participate in the slaughter, we spotted only 12. By the third day of the slaughter, less than 10,000 baby seals had died. Compare that to previous years when over 100,000 died on the first two days of the kill.

And yet, despite the greatly reduced scale of the slaughter, the cruelty has clearly escalated. That is why Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States will not stop — not for a second — until we achieve a Canadian ban on commercial seal hunting.

With the sealing industry weakened, we have a real chance to achieve our goal. So in the coming months, we must fight harder than we ever have for the lives of these defenseless baby seals. We need to convince more nations to ban their trade in seal products, and more companies and individuals to boycott Canadian seafood until the slaughter stops. In Canada, we need to promote a government buyout of the commercial sealing industry — a plan in which sealers would be compensated for lost income as the seal hunt ends and funds invested in economic alternatives.

Our campaign will move Canada beyond commercial sealing, and we desperately need your help to do it. Together, we can ensure that the slaughter we just witnessed is the last one any baby seal ever has to endure.


~ by FSVSF Admin on 11 May, 2011.

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