Shortly after 6 a.m. this morning the first baby seal died. Horribly. At the hands of a commercial sealer as part of the annual taxpayer-funded commercial seal slaughter, also known as the Great White North Make-Work Welfare Project Scheme for Commercial Sealers. The proud tradition of the government using taxpayer money to pay loutish fishermen to beat and shoot to death as many baby seals as they can, as quickly as they can, as cruelly as they can. It’s a great day out with the lads for these knuckle-draggers, an opportunity to drink a few beers, tell a few jokes and beat a few baby seals to death. And why do they do it? Simply put, “for the love of it.”
This year it couldn’t possibly be any more glaringly obvious just what a huge farce the commercial seal hunt is. Despite no demand for the grisly products of this slaughter, and market prospects at an all-time low, the killing went ahead with the government paying someone to buy and stockpile the skins. Despite years of increasingly bad sea ice resulting in alarmingly high pup mortality rates, the killing went ahead with no kill limits. Despite DFO’s claims the hunt is monitored and enforced, the killing went ahead with no monitoring or enforcement by DFO or other government authorities!
Demand for seal products has been steadily diminishing, with trade bans established in the United States, European Union, Russia and other nations. Last year the value of the commercial seal hunt was barely $1M. In fact, market prospects are so dismal the slaughter this year is proceeding only because for the second year in a row the Newfoundland government paid seal processor Carino to purchase and stockpile (or, more likely, destroy) the skins, despite claims that company repaid the $3.6M “loan” from last year. Nobody seems to want to answer the question: If Carino sold last year’s stockpile of seal skins and blubber, and repaid last year’s loan in full, why does it need a further $3.6M?
Oddly enough, at the same time Carino is being lavished with a $3.6M
gift, handout, subsidy, loan, Newfoundland’s Department of Tourism had its budget cut by $4M. Coincidence? Unlikely. I guess the government of Newfoundland thinks a crumbling unprofitable brutal industry that relies on annual handouts to survive is more important than the province’s tourism industry…
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans claims its seal management is “science-based” using the “precautionary approach”. Yet no quota was set for this year. No Total Allowable Catch, or kill limit, was set. Basically this year it’s a free-for-all bloodbath with sealers being allowed to kill as many seal pups as they can find. This is especially troubling given reports from Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International that she is seeing the worst ice conditions she has ever witnessed. In 2007, the first year I traveled to Newfoundland to witness the commercial seal slaughter for myself, DFO had estimated pup mortality in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was close to 100%. However, DFO still allowed sealers to pick off the few surviving pups as they clung to rapidly shrinking ice pans. On her blog, Live from the Ice, which documents her 15th year documenting the slaughter, Rebecca says:
As we fly over the harp seal nursery, we are seeing the worst sea ice conditions I have ever witnessed here. Where there should be solid sea ice there is just open water and tiny, broken ice pans. But the slaughter goes on, with the sealers shooting every seal pup they find.
Research published in the journal PLoS Biology expressed concerns for the future of the harp seal population given deteriorating ice conditions over the past 30 years. Seals rely on sea ice to birth and nurse their young. In recent years, ice melted early, resulting in a large number of pups drowning.
Because seals do not reach breeding age until approximately six years, the effects of over-hunting and climate change are only now beginning to be apparent. DFO has an appalling track record for marine conservation and has been accused of making decisions based on political expediency rather than conservation. It is feared that by the time DFO acknowledges the harp seal population is in trouble, it will be too late.
Another claim DFO makes is that the commercial seal hunt is “closely monitored and tightly regulated.” In past years monitoring and enforcement of the Regulations has been virtually non-existent. This year it appears DFO is not even bothering to make a pretense of monitoring or enforcing the slaughter. Rebecca reported:
We see no enforcement people, no Canadian government officials, no other NGOs. It is just us. Our helicopter and our cameras are the only defense these seals have, the only way to show the world what is happening so that we can bring it to an end.
So where is the close monitoring and tight regulation? Non-existent. Just another MYTH the Canadian government includes in its official Seal Hunt Propaganda Package it flogs on its website.
I had to steel myself to watch the video from the first day of the slaughter. It is heartbreaking to see these animals treated so cruelly and to be powerless to do anything to help them. Pups shot in the face and left to suffer; pups obviously still conscious being stabbed through the face with metal hooks and hauled onto sealing boats…I’ve seen it all too many times myself in the years I observed the commercial seal hunt in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. It breaks my heart that seal pups are still dying horrible deaths at the hands of these brutal sealers. But I do take a bit of comfort in the knowledge that fewer pups are dying, and fewer still will die in future as we all work together to spread the truth and to shut down the cruel sealing industry forever.
Warning: This video contains graphic content. I firmly believe that anyone who can watch this and insist the commercial seal hunt is humane and acceptable has something seriously wrong with them. And they wonder why people call them barbarians….