By Wayne Pacelle
The news from Canada is, I’m sorry to report, grim. The world’s biggest marine mammal slaughter started again this morning, and the consequences are predictably gruesome and the images unshakeable.
We’ve always grounded our opposition to the seal kill on the senseless and barbaric killing of the individual animals. But, more and more, it is becoming a species protection issue. Because of the warm winter, and the lack of sea ice, many seal pups will be doomed to drown and die, since they cannot swim for the first few weeks.
The whole breeding process depends on the presence and strength of that ice, and if it’s not there, the survivorship of the babies is put in jeopardy. Some will breed successfully, but they’ll be concentrated and especially vulnerable to the sealers. And if the sealers get anywhere close to the quota of 400,000 harp seals allowed by the federal government of Canada, then we are talking about a potentially devastating impact on the species.
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In my new book, The Bond, I discuss not just the morality of the seal hunt, but also the upside-down economics of this folly. The whole enterprise is an enormous money-loser, and it continues only because of stubborn refusal to change and the unending and unwitting generosity of the Canadian taxpayer, who pays for the management of the hunt; the vain effort to gain markets for the seal skins; and the political and diplomatic defense of the entire bloody massacre.
You can watch a few of the baby seals before the hunt began in our latest video.
Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International Canada, is in the air today documenting the horrific slaughter, and she sent this news from the scene.
We're flying over sealing boats now. Here, where just yesterday baby seals basked in the sun, a relentless and bloody slaughter is ongoing. The blood covers the ice floes and trails through the water, grim evidence of this killing that the world condemns.
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Below us, a baby seal plays happily, blissfully unaware of the sealing boat bearing down on her. Too soon, sensing danger, she looks up and sees the sealer aiming his gun at her. A shot rings out, and she thrashes on the ice. The boat slowly pulls into position and, apparently without bothering to see if she is unconscious, the sealer impales her on a metal hook and drags her onto the boat.
This is the awful reality of a slaughter that turns the beautiful harp seal nursery into a bloodbath.
From a thousand feet in the air, we film as one by one the innocent pups are slain for their skins. By law we are prevented from intervening. Our only defense for these baby seals is the cameras we operate—for the images we film are bringing this slaughter to an end.
This is my thirteenth year observing the seal hunt. And this year, something is different.
For even as we hover over the sealing boats, our hearts breaking as we film unspeakable cruelty, it is apparent that one day soon, this slaughter will end. Prices for seal fur remain very low this year, and most sealers say it is not worth their while to kill seals. So in an area where normally hundreds of sealing boats operate, we see only a few.
The European Union has already saved more than half a million baby seals from a horrible fate with their compassionate decision to ban trade in seal products. Hundreds of thousands more may be spared this year.
But while so many baby seals will live, for the ones who don't, the progress we are making is meaningless. And that is why we cannot stop—not for a moment—until Canada ends the commercial seal slaughter forever.
Now is the time to compel the Canadian government to put a final end to this senseless killing.