Senator Mac Harb, lone voice of reason in Canadian Senate, is calling for action on behalf of imperiled grey seals (photo credit: Erik Brush/CC)

I recently received an email from the office of Senator Mac Harb.  Senator Harb seems to be the lone voice of reason within the Canadian Senate.  It seems all other senators are blindly chanting the “SEALS MUST DIE!” mantra of the Harper government, following along like sheep with a scheme that will see over 140,000 grey seals slaughtered under the guise of a “targeted removal” but what is actually a vote-grabbing make-work project for sealers disgruntled at collapsed commercial markets for seal products.

And it is in the hands of the Senate Committee that the fate of grey seals lie.  The Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is currently studying the issue and has already heard testimony from DFO officials as well as former members of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (the politically-appointed organization that recommended the experimental slaughter of grey seals). 

Scheduled to appear next week are the president and executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association. 

Notably, there is no indication the Senate Committee will hear testimony from leading scientists speaking against the cull.  Effectively, the Committee is only hearing one side of the argument.  But that is nothing new for this government.  There have been numerous allegations that while discussing the grey seal predation issue, scientists opposed to a cull were removed and replaced by those willing to adhere to the Harper government’s political agenda.

Incidentally, during DFO’s testimony to the Senate Committee, David Balfour, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management for DFO suggested all seal carcasses would be dumped in the water since there are currently no markets for seal products…So…not only unscientific, inhumane and unsustainable, but also wasteful…

I’ve copied and pasted the text of Senator Harb’s email below and have also set up an action page on the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition website which lists all email addresses you will need to write to the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

You can also get updates on this issue at the Coalition website.

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Dear Friend,

The Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has recently begun a study that could result in the killing of 70,000 grey seals off Canada’s East Coast.

The Fisheries Minister is pushing federal scientists to justify the slaughter of seals through contrived studies and one-sided hearings for political reasons. He has decided to ignore factors such as the impact of uncontrolled foreign overfishing in the waters off our coast and the total lack of scientific proof that seals are affecting the cod’s recovery.

The committee is considering an irresponsible cull that could, in my view, have serious negative impact on the Atlantic ecosystem and the long term health of many species, including cod. This slaughter would also result in untold costs to taxpayers and to Canada’s international reputation.

I have called on the committee to do due diligence and gather scientific evidence from all sides of this issue, not simply the studies that fit in with the unjustifiable goal of killing 70,000 seals. I urge you to write to the committee and its members who can be contacted through the Committee website http://senate-senat.ca/pofo-e.asp.

The government needs to know how Canadians and people around the world feel about this indefensible slaughter.

Sincerely,

Hon. Senator Mac Harb

Chers amis,

Le Comité sénatorial permanent des pêches et océans a récemment entrepris une étude qui pourrait entraîner la mise à mort de 70 000 phoques gris au large de la côte Est du Canada.

Le ministre de Pêches et Océans pousse ses scientifiques à justifier l’abattage de phoques par des études peu crédibles et des avis tendancieux pour des raisons politiques.

Il a décidé de ne pas tenir compte de divers facteurs, comme les répercussions de la surpêche étrangère non réglementée dans les eaux internationales au large de nos côtes et l’absence totale de données scientifiques qui prouvent que les phoques menacent réellement le rétablissement des stocks de morue.

Le Comité examine la possibilité d’un abattage irresponsable qui pourrait, à mon avis, avoir de graves répercussions sur l’écosystème de l’Atlantique et sur la santé à long terme de bien des espèces d’animaux, dont la morue. Non seulement ce carnage serait très coûteux pour les contribuables, mais il porterait aussi atteinte à la réputation du Canada sur la scène internationale.

J’ai pressé le Comité de faire preuve de précaution et de rassemble et d’examiner les preuves scientifiques de toutes les parties concernées, et non uniquement les études qui viennent appuyer un objectif injustifiable, celui d’abattre 70 000 phoques. Je vous exhorte à communiquer avec le Comité et avec ses membres. Écrivez-leur sur le site Web du Comité en cliquant http://senate-senat.ca/pofo-f.asp.

Le gouvernement doit connaître l’opinion des Canadiens et des gens du monde entier sur ce carnage indéfendable.

Sincères salutations,

L’hon. Mac Harb, sénateur

Well, I seem to have offended a certain group of Nova Scotians with one of my recent blog posts.  Now now, I can hear you gasping in shock at this news: “Bridget? Offend animal abusers?  Neverrrrrr!”  But yes, as hard as it may be to believe, my blog entry on Sunday hunting during big game season in Nova Scotia has touched a nerve with a certain demographic of Nova Scotians who like to spend their leisure time torturing, maiming and killing defenceless wildlife for pleasure.  My inbox has been lighting up with dozens of angry, petulant and abusive responses.  Response hasn’t been this brisk since the last rash of sealers wrote threatening to shoot me!  These redneck hunters sure are a sensitive lot. I almost felt sorry for them.  Until I remembered the cruelty they inflict on our wildlife.

I’ve read all of their messages up to now because I figure if they take the time to send me something, the least I can do is read it, right?  It seems they were offended by my staunch opposition to hunting, quite naturally, and being called rednecks and wife beaters, again, quite understandably.  But what really made them angry, apparently, was the fact that they felt (1) I was denying their right to free speech by “deleting” their comments and (2) I was intolerant of opposing views and not interested in having a discussion about the issue.  Oh and yeah, (3) I am a “hypocritical bitch” and a “demented little troll.”

It seemed to be a common theme in the comments that the hunters had as much right to free speech as I do, so I should not be deleting their comments. 

My response:  Yes, you certainly do have the same right to free speech as I enjoy.  So start your own blog and express yourself to your heart’s content.  Nobody’s stopping you. [Psst, by the way, I'm not deleting your comments.  Submitted comments don't get posted immediately; they must be approved by the blog owner.  See, if you had your own blog you'd know that :) ]

Now, regarding the other accusation – that I was intolerant of opposing views and not interested in discussing or debating the issue (I forget the actual wording and to be honest I can’t be bothered to go back and check).  

My response:  No, I’m not interested in “discussing” or “debating” the issue.  When I became involved in animal issues approximately six years ago I had “discussions” and “debates” with people holding opposing views.  I quickly learned it was a massive waste of my time and energy.  I had my view.  They had their view.  Nobody was budging.  If I want a “discussion” or a “debate” on the issue, I will join a forum designed for just that purpose.

I don’t go trolling the internet looking for blogs that express opposing views from my own and post snide comments.  If I did, I certainly would not be surprised or outraged when my comments didn’t show up.  So all you redneck hunters out there, my advice to you is:  If you really want to exercise your right to freedom of expression, start your own blog and stay the hell away from mine, cos you’re wasting your time. ;)

Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield has finally broken his silence and responded to leading scientists’ criticism regarding  a proposed grey seal cull with a shocking revelation: “Seals aren’t vegetarians or vegans.”

Minister's shocking revelation: "Seals aren't vegetarians or vegans."

Yes, those sage words were uttered by our very own Minister of Few Words this afternoon to a Canadian Press journalist.  The Minister had remained strangely silent while the furor grew over the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council’s recommendations for a massive grey seal cull (unlike his predecessor Gail “Media Whore” Shea who loved talking to the media to the point of fabricating announcements).  After reading Ashfield’s quotes online today, I personally think he should have remained silent a little longer.

Yes, Minister, seals do eat fish.  So do other marine predators, such as whales, sharks and dolphins.  Are you suggesting we should kill those species as well, just in case they’re to blame?  After all, you don’t know for sure seals are responsible for the failure of Gulf of St. Lawrence fish stocks to rebound.  You just think they’re the “most likely” cause.  So if the idea is to kill a massive number of seals as an experiment to see if it helps fish stocks, why not kill a massive amount of all predators in the oceans and really double your chances of success!  Not scientific enough for you?  It’s about as scientific as taking your science advice from a bunch of knuckle-dragging fishermen who “clean up real good” to sit in front of the Senate Committee and lie their asses off.

But I digress.  Shortly after the FRCC released its report which recommended the removal of 140,000 grey seals in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence over a five year period, two of Canada’s leading marine biologists spoke out against the scheme, branding it politically motivated and scientifically irresponsible.  Hal Whitehead, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax specializing in the study of whales said:

Before humans started industrial fishing, there were large populations of seals and of cod. Clearly, they can coexist perfectly well. … It appears to me that politicians are playing into this largely irrational hatred of seals to make it look like they’re doing something.

Boris Worm, a Dalhousie biology professor who studies marine biodiversity, told media former fisheries minister Gail Shea had spoken in favour of a cull in 2009, and federal scientists have since been pressured to justify that decision.  He said:

It was something that was announced before the science was heard, and then a meeting was convened to produce the science to support that decision,” he said, referring to a series of scientific workshops held last fall.  To me, as a scientist, that’s not acceptable.

On September 26, 2011 an open letter was sent to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, signed by six marine scientists pointing out that the proposed greal seal cull is not supported by science and could have unexpected disastrous effects on our oceans.  The signees urged the Minister to meet with independent scientists to discuss the folly of approving a large-scale cull of grey seals.

Minister Ashfield’s reaction is tantamount to a slap in the face to these leading scientists.  Obviously the Minister would rather take his science advice from a bunch of biased yes-men and fishermen hand-picked by the Fisheries Minister to sit on the board of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.  No surprise there, however – Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is notorious for making decisions based on political expediency and economics rather than conservation.

And Minister, please remind me, because I’m still confused on this point – how do you hope to pay for this cull?  The cost of such a large-scale slaughter will be substantial and DFO is currently cutting its budget and slashing science programs.  Oh, how silly of me, of course, the Canadian taxpayer will foot the bill for this make-work project for disgruntled sealers.  Of course, the taxpayers will unwillingly hand over the cash so the sealers can happily bash and shoot in the skulls of nursing whitecoats and their mothers, and the Harper government can buy all the sealing/fishing votes for the next election.  And what do the Canadian taxpayers get?  Shafted.  Again.  Of course.

I’m no scientist, but even I know that to focus on a simplistic prey-predator model such as cod-seal is a recipe for disaster.  Our marine ecosystem is a complex food web and removing a large number of one species could have catastrophic results.  If I thought there was merit in killing off a large number of one species as an experiment to see if the desired results could be achieved, I would’ve called for a cull of pro-sealing politicians a long time ago!  ;)

NS Liberal Andrew Younger standing up for rednecks' right to bear arms on Sundays

The Nova Scotia liberal party has stood up for rednecks across the province, calling for our “outdated” hunting laws to be amended to allow hunting on Sundays during big game season.  Yes, that’s right…with all that’s going wrong in this province, the NS liberal party is worried about hunters’ rights to bear arms on Sundays and is introducing legislature to allow hunting on Sundays during Nova Scotia’s big game season, according to the NS Liberal Caucus website.  

Says Liberal Natural Resources critic Andrew Younger: “We see no reason that hunters should not be allowed to take to the woods in pursuit of big game.  The prohibition against big game hunting on Sundays has been in place for far too long and other provinces have moved to allow this practice.”

Gun- and crossbow-toutin’ rednecks have picked their knuckles up off the ground long enough to applaud this action.  Redneck Greg Sheaves who has been killing defenceless wildlife for 38 years, enthused, “This move will increase the number of new people in our sport.  It will stop the loss of millions in hunting revenue to other nearby provinces.”

Andrew Younger had originally been quoted as saying Nova Scotia’s hunting laws which ban Sunday hunting were “outdated.”  Interestingly, this quote has since been removed, seemingly after I sent a tweet to him and liberal leader Stephen MacNeil pointing out that what is actually “outdated” is killing for sport. 

It’s not bad enough that we kill coyotes all year round, even when they’re birthing and nursing their young (while the government puts our tax dollars in the killers’ pockets).  It’s not bad enough that we beat and shoot to death defenceless weeks-old grey seal pups in nature reserves (and, again, the government puts our tax dollars in the killers’ pockets).  Now we want to kill big game on the one day they get some breathing space?  If this legislation passes, there will be no day of rest for Nova Scotia wildlife, nor will there be a day of rest for Nova Scotia redneck hunters.  You’d think they’d have enough to do on Sundays, what with all the beer-swilling, wife- and children-beating and whatnot.

Today the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) – a so-called “arm’s-length advisory body” whose members are actually appointed by the Canadian Fisheries Minister – released a report which recommends the wholesale slaughter of up to 70% of the entire southern Gulf grey seal population. Why? To see if it might help fish stocks. That’s right — yet another grisly experiment contemplated by the Canadian government. Add this to the last report which contemplated the slaughter and incineration of over 200,000 adult and baby grey seals on iconic Sable Island.

I’d love to say that I’m shocked by the Council’s recommendations but the sad truth is, I saw it coming. Not only has DFO and sealing officials been gunning for seals for years, but one of the members of the Council spouted to media this past February about how much he’d love to see an experimental cull of grey seals.

NS sealer about to bludgeon terrified baby grey seal on Hay Island 2011 (Photo: Rebecca Aldworth/Humane Society International)

Cape Breton biologist Dr. Bruce Hatcher was

appointed by then-Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in March of 2010. Less than one year later Dr. Hatcher expressed sorrow that a low number of baby seals were bludgeoned and shot to death on protected wilderness area Hay Island in 2011 and suggested if the seals didn’t like being killed on Hay Island they could move elsewhere.  SERIOUSLY.  “Hatcher said…If seals were to come find Hay Island an in hospitable place to be because of the hunt they could move elsewhere”…So I guess because the grey seals return to Hay Island to give birth each year, they must approve of the barbaric treatment meted out to them by sociopathic knuckle-dragging sealers.

Respected east coast scientists and marine mammal experts panned Hatcher’s comments in an Op Ed, stating the concept of a seal cull to improve fish stocks was “not scientifically defensible”, pointing out that many other species in the Southern Gulf consume cod (the greatest of which are cod themselves, and other fish), and cautioning the experimental cull contemplated would have no replication and no control, and would tell us nothing about the relationship between seal and groundfish.  Unfortunately, to my knowledge, their Op Ed was not published by Cape Breton Post, the paper which printed the Hatcher article.

Sheryl  Fink, seals campaign director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, got it 100% right when she said They’re taking a political decision to cull seals and trying to couch it in some kind of scientific language and portray it as an experiment.”  Dr. David Lavigne, IFAW Science Advisor makes an important point: A significant flaw with the FRCC recommendation is that it does not evaluate the interactions between seals and other species, and ignores entirely the positive effects of grey seals and other top predators on the ecosystem as a whole.

This strikes me as a thinly-disguised make-work project for disgruntled sealers.  The government wants to hide its own bumbling mismanagement of our oceans.  The knuckle-dragging sealers want to continue bludgeoning and shooting to death baby seals.  But there are no markets for seals, so what to do?  Get an “arm’s length” advisory panel comprised of scientists and fishermen to recommend an “experimental cull” and pay sealers handsomely for carrying it out.  It’s a win-win for government and sealers.  A huge loss for seals.  And a huge loss for Canadians if we allow this atrocity to continue. 

Nursing whitecoats and their moms will be targeted in a cull - no one will be safe (Photo: Mark Glover/HSI 2010)

The Council has made its recommendation and the decision now lies with Canada’s Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Ken Ashfield.

  The Minister should further mull a very important point made by Council chairman Gerard Chidley who told media the council is worried about how the rest of the world will perceive the cull:  “We are subject to intense international scrutiny that has the potential to put established markets for Canadian seafood products at serious risk”   TOO BLOODY RIGHT.  A boycott of Canadian seafood has been running successfully in the US for the past few years and has now expanded to Europe.  Additionally, there are concerns of tourism boycotts, including Nova Scotia where grey seals are slaughtered annually on several small islands, including provincial park Hay Island.  KEEP IN MIND — A CULL WOULD NOT ONLY TARGET WEANED PUPS — IT WOULD INCLUDE NURSING WHITECOATS STILL SUCKLING FROM THEIR MOTHERS.  DFO has always defended the commercial kill, declaring nursing whitecoats are no longer killed.  This will not be the case should a cull take place — many nursing whitecoats and newborns will be slaughtered alongside their mothers.  How will the world react to THAT?  Not well, I suspect, and the government knows it.  At this time when the Canadian government is trying to claim the commercial kills are humane and necessary, and trying to overturn the EU seal product ban, does it really want to sanction the wiping out of over 70% of the grey seal population, including newborn pups?  I hope Minister Ashfield will see the folly in such a move and will reject the Council’s recommendations.  But the sealing industry is a powerful lobbying body so who knows what the Minister’s decision will be…

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be posting an action alert, urging all compassionate Canadians and members of the International Community to take action to speak up for beleaguered grey seals on the east coast of Canada.

If anyone had any illusions the Canadian government is being truthful about the commercial seal hunt, those illusions surely have been shattered this past week.  I grew up knowing the commercial seal hunt was wrong, the killing was cruel and the whole disgusting business was unnecessary.  My grandmother, originally from a remote island known as Rams Island (later renamed Iona before being cleared and its inhabitants moved to the mainland) in Newfoundland, disagreed with my view, and I remember bitter words being spoken on the subject.  But when I actually witnessed the killing for myself for the first time in 2007 it struck me – the Canadian public has truly been betrayed by the Canadian government.  The Canadian government uses our taxes to fund the killing and misleads us in regard to every single aspect of the sadistic practice, while branding people like me – who have seen the slaughter with their own eyes – liars.  I have never lied about what I have witnessed in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  The Canadian government is the guilty party.  Here are just a few of the many lies told by our government:

LIE #1: Baby seals aren’t killed.  THE TRUTH:  Oh yes, they are – even protected whitecoats and bluebacks are killed by sealers.

This seal pup is almost completely covered in white fur and was likely 14 days old when it was killed. Not even eating solid food, still very much a baby. Photo Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

The Canadian government claims all seals killed in the commercial seal hunt are self-reliant adults.  In actual fact, seals targeted during the commercial seal hunt are between the ages of 12 days and three months, with most being under one month of age.  Many, like the pup in the photo here, are still almost completely covered in white fur at the time of their death.  At this age they are not swimming, nor are they eating solid food.  Recently weaned, they live on fat reserves built up from their mom’s milk until they’re ready to leave the ice and swim away.

In truth, a seal can legally be killed once it begins moulting its whitecoat, which usually happens at about 12 days of age.   Recently weaned, unable to swim, escape or defend themselves against sealers, they are as helpless as babies and certainly are NOT the self-reliant adults DFO would like you to believe are the target of the commercial seal hunt.
The Canadian government is quick to point out that since 1982 it has been illegal to kill whitecoats (harp pups younger than 12 days) and bluebacks (hooded seal pups younger than 14 months).  This ban came into effect following an EU-wide ban on whitecoat seal products which caused the sealing industry to collapse.  The Canadian government has been silent on reports coming from observers that sealers were documented killing protected bluebacks.
 
LIE #2 – The commercial seal hunt is humane.  THE TRUTH – Every year observers compile hours of videotaped evidence sealers routinely violate woefully inadequate Regulations and inflict horrific cruelty on seal pups.
 

Conscious seal pups are stabbed through the eye socket and jaw with metal hooks and hauled onto boats - this is NOT illegal and is documented each year. Photo: Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

I observed the commercial seal hunt from 2007 – 2010 and the horrors I witnessed will stay with me forever.  I was unable to travel to Newfoundland this year but have been following closely reports from Humane Society International/Canada and IFAW observers.   The reports have been grisly, to put it mildly.  Just a few instances:

  • Sealers failing to perform 3-step process, slicing open seal pups still alive and possibly conscious;
  • Seal pups showing conscious reaction to pain – voluntary movement – after being sliced open and hurled into the bottom of sealing boat;
  • Seal pups being shot in close proximity to each other as they desperately try to escape;
  • Seal pups being shot in the face, neck and back, suffering on the ice for long periods of time before boats reach them to finish them off;
  • Seal pups being shot on the ice and just left to die – sealers not even retrieving them from the ice – killing for sport;
  • Terrified seal pups being harassed and manhandled by sealers posing for photos.

 

This video, by International Fund for Animal Welfare, shows a seal pup sliced open and thrown into a boat, waving and clenching a front flipper in pain as it bleeds to death slowly in the bottom of the boat with other seal carcasses.

The bottom line is the commercial seal hunt cannot be conducted humanely.  Several factors prevent the annual kill from ever being humane.  The speed at which it is conducted (this year, in just one week 20,000 seals were killed by approximately 39 boats); extreme weather conditions; geographical location and inability of DFO Enforcement to monitor the killing to make sure killing is as humane as possible are just a few examples.  It is simply impossible for seals to be killed humanely during the annual seal kill and that’s one compelling reason the killing must be stopped.

LIE #3 - The commercial seal hunt is tightly regulated.  THE TRUTH – Regulations are inadequate to properly address animal welfare concerns and are not enforced by DFO.

HUMANE?? Photo R. Aldworth/HSI 2011

The Marine Mammal Regulations which govern the killing of seals in the commercial seal hunt are woefully inadequate to properly address animal welfare concerns.  For instance, the Regulations allow live and conscious seals to be hooked through the eye socket or jaw and dragged across the ice and into boats.  The Regulations allow pups to be shot and left, wounded and suffering, on the ice for extended periods of time before being killed by sealers.  Even the much-heralded 3-step process does not satisfy international veterinarian standards for humane slaughter.  The 3-step process, introduced by the Canadian government in 2008 as a cynical ploy to stave off a threatened EU-wide seal trade ban, is not even incorporated into the Marine Mammal Regulations; it is simply a licence condition.

In my years observing the seal hunt I saw many violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations.  From what I have been reading and seeing of this year’s slaughter, this could very well be the worst in terms of numbers of violations.  According to observers, sealers are routinely violating the Regulations and licence conditions – failing to perform the 3-step process, cutting into live and possibly conscious pups, using what appear to be illegal killing implements, killing protected hooded blueback pups, killing for sport, not landing the carcass or the pelt…the list goes on and on.  And throughout this brutal bloodbath, where is DFO enforcement?  That leads me to the next lie.

LIE #4 – The commercial seal hunt is closely monitored and enforced.  THE TRUTH – DFO does not monitor or enforce the killing of seals during the commercial seal hunt in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland.

Pups are routinely wounded with bullets and left suffering on the ice, waiting helplessly for sealers to come and beat them to death. Photo Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

Observers at this year’s commercial seal hunt are reporting a distinct lack of DFO Enforcement presence in the killing zones.  While observers videotaped sealers committing Reg violations for hours, DFO was nowhere in sight.  This is nothing new.  During my years of observation, DFO was never around to document the killing.  Even when Coast Guard boats were in the vicinity, the sealers did what they liked with little or no regard for Regulations or even rudimentary animal welfare, while DFO looked the other way.   Each year observers submit hours of unedited footage to DFO showing clear violations of Marine Mammal Regulations.  Very few charges are ever laid by DFO as a result of this evidence given to them.

In various conversations I’ve had with DFO regarding the commercial killing of grey seals on islands in Nova Scotia, DFO has confirmed there is no constant monitoring of sealers as they kill seals.  In 2007 I was told by a DFO official, “We don’t stand there looking over their shoulder as they’re working” and in 2010 it was confirmed DFO visits periodically just to check up on things.  I’ve been advised by someone familiar with Nova Scotia sealers that the periodic DFO visits have more to do with bringing coffee for the sealers than actually monitoring the killing.

On Hay Island, a nature reserve in Nova Scotia, grey seal pups are herded together and beaten or shot to death mere inches from each other Photo R. Aldworth/HSI 2011

The truth is, even if DFO had the will to actually monitor the killing and enforce the Regulations, it is physically impossible to do so.  Even in the smaller Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, DFO has never been able to control the sealing boats and for years sealers killed above and beyond the Total Allowable Catch.  DFO admitted to reporters a few years ago it was very difficult to control the boats there.  If DFO staff cannot control boats in the relatively small Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, how can they possibly claim to be able to control boats in the much larger Northern Gulf or The Front?  In previous years, hundreds of boats participated in the commercial seal hunt.  In recent years that number has dwindled to a few dozen, but those boats are operating in an area the size of France.  DFO has a small number of vessels and limited staff – there is no physical way they can monitor the killing or enforce the law.  And yet each year they lie and claim that is precisely what they are doing!

As the reports come in daily and the videos and photographs are shared via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the Canadian government has fallen strangely silent.  Neither Fisheries Minister Gail Shea nor Prime Minister Stephen Harper have cared to comment publicly about their many falsehoods being exposed.  Of course they don’t care to comment, since they believe they don’t have to answer to Canadians, the majority of whom, polling consistently shows, oppose the annual slaughter and object to their taxes being used to fund it.  This is why more than ever, Canadians need to make the seal hunt a voting issue.

Coming tomorrow - Lies My Government Told Me (Part 2) dealing with more porky pies told by our government, including such chestnuts as ‘Full utilization of the animal’, ‘Sealing provides much-needed income to coastal communities’ and ‘Sealing is a time-honoured tradition.”  What a load of crap…

This video, narrated by Sheryl Fink of International Fund for Animal Welfare, was shot during the first day of the commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and shows the cruelty inherent in the annual slaughter. On the video are violations of Marine Mammal Regulations, but even more troubling are the acts of brutality to seal pups which are perfectly legal and acceptable under the Marine Mammal Regulations.

The Canadian government claims the commercial seal hunt is “tightly regulated” and “closely monitored.” Each year, however, hours of video footage is compiled by lawful observers which prove those claims are false.

The seal hunt is regulated in the sense there exists a set of Marine Mammal Regulations to which sealers are supposed to adhere. However, the Regulations are woefully inadequate and do not ensure acceptable animal welfare standards are met. Even the much-heralded “3-step process” does not meet international veterinarian standards for humane slaughter. Let me put it this way — it is perfectly legal under the Marine Mammal Regulations for sealers to impale conscious seal pups through the face or other body part with large metal hooks and drag them across the ice, before throwing them onto a boat and finishing them off with a club. Does that sound humane to you? It is not.

The government’s other claim — the commercial seal hunt is “closely monitored” — is also BOGUS. I guess it all depends on their definition of “monitored.” IFAW reported that during the first day of the killing spree, DFO Enforcement was nowhere in sight. Sealers were routinely violating the Marine Mammal Regulations and DFO was not present to monitor or enforce those Regulations.

This is nothing new.  Each and every year sealers violate Marine Mammal Regulations and inflict unimaginable agony on defenceless seal pups, while DFO Enforcement looks the other way.  Oftentimes, DFO is too busy keeping an eye on lawful licenced observers to actually do their job and monitor the killing.

I urge everyone to contact Canada’s Minister of Fisheries Gail Shea and ask her how she can possibly continue to insist the commercial seal hunt is humane and it clearly isn’t.  Tell her the evidence is irrefutable.  Tell her we are tired of the Canadian government misinforming the public as to the true nature of the cruel commercial seal hunt.  Tell her it must end now.  Her contact info is as follows:

Email: min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Twitter: @CPCGailShea

Tomorrow I will post more ways you can help Canada’s seals.

Photo Frank Loftus/HSUS

Yesterday marked the first day of the commercial seal hunt in Newfoundland, in an area referred to as The Front, and almost immediately the horror stories began to surface of the horrific cruelty being documented by licenced observers of the slaughter.

Sheryl Fink, Director of Seals Program for International Fund for Animal Welfare, reported sealers were not performing the 3-step process which is part of their sealing licence conditions, and at least one sealer was using what appeared to be an illegal weapon.  As well, she reported sealers were killing seal pups just for the sake of killing them, leaving their carcass and pelt on the ice for the birds to peck.  During these repeated violations of Marine Mammal Regulations, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Enforcement was nowhere to be found.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada reported witnessing pups being shot while in the water (a practice condemned by the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association) and gaffed while still alive.  Again, DFO was nowhere to be seen.

These eyewitness accounts expose the despicable lies behind the Canadian government’s claims that the seal hunt is closely monitored and tightly regulated. This is video footage taken by HSI/Canada on the first day of the slaughter:

I observed the Canadian commercial seal hunt in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland from 2007 to 2010 and know full-well the agony these pups are suffering at the hands of the brutal Newfoundland sealers, and the trauma felt by observers having to bear witness to such despicable acts.  Although I could not be there this year, my heart is with the seals and I am helping to spread the information I’m getting online through Twitter and Facebook.

Please take action right now to help end this brutal slaughter. To find out how you can help, please visit the websites of IFAW and Humane Society International

What does one do with hundreds of pounds of dead baby seal flesh no one wants?  Feed it to the homeless.  Hey, they’re homeless; they’re bound to be hungry, right?  And, after all, beggars can’t be choosers, can they?

The sealers would have us believe their donation is based on goodwill and public relations.  Leonce Arsenault, organizer of the event, explained, “We come to Montreal to show people that the sealers are not as barbaric want to believe the animal rights activists who have misinformation about the seal hunt,” (Google translation which is rough, but you get the idea.)

Barbaric?  Surely not.  These charming fellows were out in the Gulf of St. Lawrence slaughtering defenceless weeks-old seal pups as they clung to melting pans of ice, shooting or beating them to death.  No, not barbaric at all.

Photo: ACASC/Bridget Curran

This year some of the worst ice in history was recorded in the Maritime and Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence regions and alarmingly high pup mortality rate ensued.  Nursery ice melted from under the pups before they could swim and they drowned, or pups were stranded on land where they fell prey to predators such as coyotes and large birds.  The sealers from the Maggies were the very few who bothered to go out in their boats and it was definitely a Slaughter of the Survivors.

The Canadian government recently announced a deal had been struck with China to import seal products, but those markets have failed to materialize and IFAW revealed the Canadian government had been making similar announcements for nearly 20 years with no markets ever materializing.  Just more empty promises.  So rather than admit there are no markets for the meat, they turn it into a PR circus event, foisting it on the homeless and patting themselves on the back. 

This year the record low ice and high pup mortality should have been enough for the government to cancel this year’s seal hunt.  Instead, the government hiked the quota to the ridiculously high sum of 400,000 and let sealers go out and slaughter every surviving pup they managed to find.  And for what?  To dump the flesh nobody else wants on the homeless?  Gesture of goodwill?  Slap in the face, more like.

I hope no one gets sick if they eat the seal meat.  Seals are prone to diseases and parasites and humans can become infected with brucellosis and trichinosis after coming into contact with infected seals or seal products.  In Canada, seals are processed as fish, not mammals, so the seal carcasses are not screened for diseases found in mammals.  When I made inquiries about the food safety protocols for planned shipments of seal meat to Asia, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the seal meat was “being handled entirely by the fish program.  A licence from DFO to harvest the seals is required and seal meat for export to China would have to be processed through a federally registered fish plant.”  When I asked if that meant  the veterinary oversight and meat hygiene protocols mandated under the federal ‘Meat Inspection Act’ are not being applied to the processing of seal meat, I never heard back from them.  I wonder why…

Scary, no?  But as I said, I guess the sealers’ reasoning is these people are homeless and hungry so they’ll take what they can get.  What an insult.  Here’s an idea:  if the sealers are so poverty-stricken that they must beat to death baby seals to earn a living to feed their families, why aren’t they feeding the seal meat to their children?  Point to ponder…

WOW. A federal party leader tells voters he wants to continue wasting their tax dollars on a cruel and unprofitable industry nobody needs or wants; and the voice of one million Canadian voters is silenced by a consortium of television broadcasters when Green Party leader Elizabeth May was excluded from leader debates…today was a huge FAIL for democracy in this country.

TV Broadcast Consortium decides what Canadian voters are allowed to see and hear

DEMOCRACY DENIED: Elizabeth May excluded from leadership debates

The Green Party appeared today before the Federal Court of Appeal to challenge a decision of a broadcast consortium to exclude Green Party leader Elizabeth May from televised party leader debates occurring on April 12th and 14th. Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon, after hearing arguments from both sides, refused a judicial review prior to the debates.

This is a flashback to 2008 when the broadcast consortium (comprised of CBC CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA), which has no set rules and makes decisions on the fly, shut May out of the debates but later relented as a result of a huge public outcry. There is an even bigger outcry this time, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

There are so many things that disturb me about this, I scarcely know where to begin. The consortium is claiming the Green Party doesn’t get a seat at the debate because it holds no seats in Canada. Is that relevant? The Green Party received one million votes in the 2008 election – clearly there are MANY Canadians who want to hear what Elizabeth May has to say. Voters have a right to hear plans and opinions of all major party leaders on all important issues facing this country. And yet…our rights are being violated by a group of TV broadcasters?!?!

Secondly, the lawyer for the consortium alleged that if May were included in the debate, the other leaders wouldn’t attend the debate and there would be no debate. What’s going on here? Party leaders originally told the consortium they didn’t want May in the debate but seemed to relent, announcing they didn’t mind if she attended. At least that’s what they said publicly. What they said in private must have been something quite different, prompting the consortium’s legal counsel to state they would likely not participate in the debate if May were included. Do we really want to elect a leader who will not engage in meaningful debate and who conspires to silence the voice of one million Canadians and deprive Canadian voters of the opportunity to hear what the Green Party has to say?

And then of course there’s the ludicrous fact that the leader of a political party running in ONLY ONE PROVINCE gets a seat at the debate table, while a registered political party with candidates running all across the country is refused a seat…surreal.   Someone actually responded to one of my many tweets on this subject today, saying “You can’t force other people to listen to your message.”  This isn’t about forcing anyone to listen.  This is about democracy and freedom of speech.  Personally, I don’t want to listen to Harper (or any of the other leaders, for that matter) drone on and on but I would defend his right to take part in the debates.  It’s democracy – something that is becoming alarmingly scarce in this country.  Polling is showing the majority of Canadians want Elizabeth May at the debates.  Anyone who feels they are being “forced” to listen to the Green Party can use the mute button on their remote when it’s May’s turn to speak ;)

Elizabeth May has now asked other party leaders to “step up and demonstrate that they believe in the principles and the practice of a healthy democracy by telling the consortium that there will be no debate without me.“  It will be most interesting to see how the other party leaders will respond to this.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth May is embarking on a cross-country series of rallies.  She’ll be here in Halifax on Saturday, April 9th from 12 – 1 pm at Sackville Landing, 1655 Lower Water Street, Halifax.  I’m looking forward to attending that event and showing my support for the Green Party and for democracy.  I hope to see you there!

Michael Ignatieff: “Screw you, Canadian Taxpayers! I Want the Sealing Vote!”

Iggy giving the thumbs up while trying to keep the gag reflex down

CBC reported today that Conservative candidate for St.John’s South-Mount Pearl, Loyola Sullivan, had complained BC Liberal MP Hedy Fry was plotting to shut down the commercial seal hunt and demanded Ignatieff denounce Fry’s intentions.
Loyola Sullivan was formerly Canada’s Ambassador for Fisheries Decimation Conservation and was part of a Canadian delegation at the public hearing held in Brussels, where speakers made their case for and against commercial seal hunting.  Sullivan’s group was present to promote the inherently inhumane Canadian commercial seal hunt as a humane and regulated activity, yet could not bring himself to watch video footage of the killing as it was shown to the hearing by Humane Society International.  According to an eyewitness in the room, Sullivan averted his face until the video had finished.

It was not surprising that Sullivan would indulge in such cheap pandering to the rabid pro-sealing vote in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Nor was Ignatieff’s response to the challenge surprising.  In a statement published on the Liberal Party website, Ignatieff reiterates his support for the commercial seal hunt and his intention to continue to support and defend it.

What was surprising, however, was the tired old chiches and clear ignorance of the issue contained in the official statement.  Using words like “humane”, ‘sustainable”, “traditional” and “commercially viable” are used.  Seriously?  Really?  Wake the hell up, man.

Michael Ignatieff shows a woeful ignorance of the issue.  I have witnessed the commercial seal hunt over the past five years and I find it incredibly offensive he blindly insists the killing is humane.  He has never personally witnessed it, and I suggest he do so this year before even attempting to make such claims.  Likewise, I suggest he look into the finances, comparing the millions of dollars required to keep the failing industry afloat versus the paltry “profits” generated, before considering calling it sustainable and commercially viable.  And of course he drags the Inuit into it, referring to “Aboriginal and fishing communities” and a “subsistent hunt.”  Iggy is enthusiastically pimping out Inuit for the pro-sealing vote, just as Harper’s government has been doing.

Of course, while Ignatieff is banging on about supporting the sealing industry and commercial sealers, what he’s really saying is “Screw you, Canadian taxpayers” since it is the Canadian taxpayer who will be doing the actual supporting of the failing industry and the savage sealers.  Polling consistently shows the majority of Canadians oppose the cruel seal slaughter and object to their tax dollars being used to fund it.  Yet every year the federal government lavishes millions on the crumbling industry.  Seemingly, Ignatieff is prepared to throw good money after bad and continue funding the brutal activity using an unlimited supply of tax dollars from an unwilling Canadian public.  Shame.