Despite the EU’s ban on seal products and outrage from around the globe, the Canadian government continues to try and push seal products into non-existent markets and has approved the highest quota ever for killing harp, gray and hooded seals at 468, 200.
The government continues to insist that the hunt is economically necessary. Sealers need to make a living, right? They depend on this for their very survival, right? They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t really need to, right? Maybe some of them, but not Dwight Spence of Port au Choix on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. He has a different reason.
According to Dwight, “You’re only just going at it for the sport and try to kill off some of the seals, that’s around, to get rid of some.”
Unfortunately, there have been far worse quotes from sealers than that, but thanks for the fodder Dwight! So even though the Gulf of St. Lawrence is having some of the worst ice conditions on record due to climate change, and the seals are being left with less ice, which they need to give birth and care for pups on, sealers continue to kill pups not out of necessity, but just for the fun of it.
Yet for some reason, the government also likes to call it a “humane” hunt. There are regulations in place regarding how seals are to be killed, after all.
Sealers are supposed to be following guidelines to make the slaughter humane. Marine Mammal Regulations require a three-step process that includes striking or shooting a pup, checking to make sure that their skulls are crushed and then cutting two axillary arteries under their front flippers to bleed them out. Sealers are also required to wait at least an entire minute to ensure that the seals are actually dead before skinning them.
Violations of these Marine Mammal Regulations have been cited on numerous occasions in the past. However, this year, eyewitnesses who have had the misfortune of having to watch this massacre firsthand to document the brutality taking place have returned deeming this one of the cruelest slaughters to take place yet.
While watching a ship come towards two pups, Sheryl Fink, Director of International Fund For Animal Welfare‘s Seal Program said that, “We expected the pups to be crushed under the hull. Then we watched in horror as one of the men on the boat reached down and jabbed the live pup with his long handled gaff. The frightened pup whirled and snapped at the gaff, trying to bite at it in self defense. But she didn’t stand a chance. With another swing, the sealer slammed the steel hook into the little pup’s face, and lifted her up into the boat. There was absolutely no question as to what we were seeing: here was a live, conscious, seal pup being brutally hooked through her eye socket and lifted into a boat.”
Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of the Humane Society International had a similar experience.
“This is the worst killing I’ve observed yet,” she said. “Seals would be shot in the neck, back or jaw and show directed movements (raising its head, crying out, crawling) and the sealer would not shoot again.”
Footage was also captured of pups being killed and left on the ice, which is also illegal, and of sealers killing young hooded seals, which is also currently illegal.
Worse even was that what would be considered a voluntary movement was seen among at least one pile of what should have been dead bodies in a boat.
“The 2011 seal harvest is on-going and potential violations are under investigation,” said a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
While the government also claims it’s not subsidizing this cruelty, it’s paying for ice breakers, Coast Guard services and DFO salaries, in addition to spending millions on marketing efforts and attempts to promote international trade, which includes a recent attempt to try to open a market in China.
Please pass on Canadian seafood and sign IFAW’s petition telling Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper that enough is enough. It’s time to put an end to an already dying industry.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardchild/2358201565/