Emily McCoy, a US citizen arrested after putting a tofu cream pie in the face of Canada’s Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last year, was convicted of assault today and sentenced to two years probation during which time she is banned from entering Canada and from contacting Shea, Fisheries officials and officials from other Canadian institutions such as embassies and consulates.

During a speech given by Shea at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, McCoy stood up, pushed the pie into Shea’s face and berated her for authorizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals each year on the east coast of Canada.  McCoy’s actions were denounced by Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne who declared PETA should be labeled a “terrorist organization” as a consequence (but believes terrorizing, torturing and skinning alive baby seals is a time-honoured tradition). 

MP Gerry Byrne eating pie. Seriously. He's eating pie. Probably not tofu cream, though

Gail Shea complained to media she had not yet received an apology from McCoy, ignoring the fact that the majority of Canadians are still waiting for an apology from her for using their tax dollars to fund the world’s largest slaughter of marine mammals.

Likewise, PETA’s Emily Lavender is still waiting for an apology from the coward who hid inside the Salty Dog costume as he physically assaulted her before shoving a pie in her face while she conducted a peaceful demonstration in St. John’s.  Interesting enough, police didn’t arrest him for assault.  I guess it’s only assault if it’s a federal government official getting the pie in the face…

The question is not whether pieing constitutes assault, or a terrorist act, or whether McCoy’s sentence was stiff enough, or whether the revenge taken against Emily Lavendar in St. John’s was appropriate.  The real question is:  How the hell do we ban Gail Shea from Canada?

Today – March 15th – is the Global Day of Action Against Sealing.  Rallies and demonstrations are being held all over the world to voice opposition to the cruel commercial hunting of seals.  Here in Halifax, we’ll be hosting a rally on Saturday, March 19th at 11 am at the Main Gates of the Public Gardens, corner of Spring Garden and South Park.

In the meantime, here are a couple of actions you can take on this Day of Action to help seals (or tomorrow, if you can’t get to them today):

1.  Tell Canada’s Minister of International Trade to drop the WTO challenge.  The Canadian government is determined to fight the EU seal product ban which will cost Canadian taxpayers a further $10 million and could put in jeopardy a trade deal presently being discussed by Canada and the EU.  HSI has other actions you can take to help seals – you’ll see them listed after you’ve sent your email to Canada’s Trade Minister.

2.  Contact your Member of Parliament.  Tell them you oppose the cruel commercial seal hunt, want to see it ended and would like to know their position on the issue.

According to The Navigator Online, Conservative MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Scott Armstrong, moved to introduce a new bill yesterday that “will better protect Canadian sealers from angry anti-sealing protesters.”

NS MP Scott Armstrong gives thumbs-up to pathetic pointless posturing in the run-up to a federal election

In his introduction of Bill C-636, MP Armstrong said, “In fact, in 2008 the Canadian Coast Guard had to seize a vessel and arrest European activists who were putting sealers’ lives at risk by coming dangerously close to the hunt.“  He is referring to the incident in which the Canadian government claimed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessel ‘Farley Mowat’ got too close to the hunt after sealers complained the Farley Mowat was ramming the ice upon which they stood as they beat to death defenceless baby seals.  The Farley Mowat was stormed and boarded by Gestapo RCMP, female crew members were roughly thrown down and held on the ground, and everyone was arrested and thrown in jail.  Eventually, Captain Alex Cornelissen and First Officer Peter Hammarstedt were found guilty of interfering with Canada’s seal hunt in Nova Scotia Kangaroo Provincial Court.

The Act seeks to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to increase the distance non-licenced observers must stay from the seal hunt.  Currently anyone not in possession of an observation permit must stay a one-half nautical mile from sealers.  This Bill seeks to increase that distance to one full nautical mile.

My immediate reaction was righteous indignation.  Any distance restriction – and the very requirement to apply for an observation permit - is a gross violation of our Charter Rights as Canadians. 

However, upon reflection I decided to lighten up and have a chuckle at the sheer silliness of the business.  And let’s face it, there are so many shades of silly to this Bill that I hardly know where to begin.

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

First of all, if “angry anti-sealing protesters” are so determined to approach sealers that they ignore the one-half nautical mile stipulation, such “dangerous radicals” certainly are not going to be deterred by an increase to that stipulation.  A half-nautical mile is quite a distance and really should be sufficient to keep unlicenced observers (or, “dangerous radicals” as Mr. Armstrong likes to refer to them) away from physical confrontations with sealers.  Considering ice conditions in the past few years, one would have to get alot closer than one-half nautical mile to cause mischief.  To increase the distance requirement to a full mile is overkill and just plain silly.  Not to mention the waste of taxpayers’ money.  But then, considering the millions of our tax dollars the government currently lavishes on this crumbling and unprofitable industry, what’s a few thousand more? *nudge nudge wink wink*

Secondly, Mr. Armstong has gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.  Sealers don’t need protection from observers – observers are the ones in need of protection.  The only violence perpetrated by human against human on (and off) the ice is committed by sealers.  Although licenced observers must remain 10 metres away from sealers, there is no similar distance requirement for sealers, and they are free to approach and assault observers.  And they quite often do assault observers.  Where was Mr. Armstrong’s concern when a Newfoundland sealer attacked an observer with a hakapik (charges were stayed and the sealer agreed to make a $500 donation to a local food bank instead of going to court)?  Where was Mr. Armstrong’s indignation when Nova Scotia sealers chased an inflatible craft carrying observers through dangerous icepans, brandishing their rifles and threatening to shoot them?  But then, that’s right – Mr. Armstrong seems to care only for the safety of Canadian sealers.  He doesn’t seem to care about the safety of Canadian observers.  Perhaps Mr. Armstrong should give serious thought to his priorities and work instead to ensure the safety of Canadian citizens who observe and document the seal hunt each year, and propose to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to impose a restriction on the distance sealers must remain from observers.  Nah, can’t see that happening.  After all, there are more sealers voting in the upcoming federal election than seal hunt observers.

This pup was shot, gagged through face and hauled across ice while still conscious by NS sealer Pat Briand in 2008 (Photo: IFAW)

And that’s the final point.  Armstrong’s proposed Bill is not about “…protecting our sealers on the very ice where they conduct the seal hunt”, nor is he being truthful when he claims  ”it is about protecting our sealers, and it is the right thing to do.  This is about pre-election posturing.  This is about sending the message to the fishing and sealing industry of Atlantic Canada that the Conservative Party of Canada has their “back”, truly cares about them and their families, and is willing to move heaven and earth to enshrine their right to bludgeon and shoot to death defenceless baby seals.  If Armstrong truly cared about sealers, he would stop the unproductive posturing and propose the abolition of the commercial seal hunt and the implementation of a licence buyout.

I wonder if Armstrong came up with this scheme on his own or if he was instructed to do so by Stephen “Dead Eyes” Harp(sealkill)er?  Either way, he should be ashamed of himself for such pathetic posturing.  It is highly unlikely this Bill will pass.  Private member bills rarely become law.   But then, whether or not it becomes law isn’t important to the Conservatives – it’s the optics, the illusion that the Conservative government cares enough about sealers to want to change the law to ensure their safety.

This video recently surfaced online and has sparked shock and revulsion internationally.   EITB.com, a Spanish-language online news website,  posted the video a few days ago under the heading ‘First day of seal hunting in Canada.’  Since its appearance, angry comments such as “Shame on you Canada!”, “Murderers!” and “This is absolutely disgusting” have been appearing beneath the video.  Have a look and you’ll see unspeakable cruelty and will understand why it has sparked such outrage.

The grainy video, branded with the ‘eitb’ logo, shows a sealer striking a seal pup repeatedly on its back and side as it rolls around on the ground, trying to dodge the blows.  It also shows a sealer shoot a pup inches from his nursery-mate, then chase the terrified second pup in circles as it tries to escape, covered in the blood of the dead pup.  DFO officials and Fur Institute of Canada director Pierre-Yves Dauost look on impassively as the terrified pup is harassed by the sealer for a full 30 seconds before being shot as it lies huddled against its dead nursery-mate.  In another scene, a frightened pup still half-covered in white fur tries to escape as a group of sealers kneel beside a dead pup in the background.  In yet another scene, a burly sealer savagely bashes in the head of a weeks-old pup a full six times with a hakapik.

HUMANE?? Photo R. Aldworth/HSI

The Canadian and Nova Scotian governments have claimed for years the killing of seals on provincial nature reserve Hay Island is done humanely.  This video taken just a few days ago disproves those claims.  There is nothing humane about the manner in which these pups were killed.  These scenes filmed on Hay Island are typical of the way harp, hooded and grey seal pups are killed in the commercial seal hunt across Atlantic Canada.

Daoust told media the experiment using low-calibre bullets was a success.  He then followed by saying everything must be done differently next year – the number of pups killed inhumanely must be reduced; a more destructive bullet must be used; and sealers must wait until the seal pup stops moving before pulling the trigger (these are wild animals, threatened and terrified – of course they’re not going to stop moving…).  This leads one to wonder, quite reasonably, how the experiment could be termed a “success”…

Canada is currently challenging the EU seal product ban at WTO, complaining there is no exemption for “humanely harvested seal products.”  Even if there were such an exemption, does Canada honestly think its seal products would qualify for such an exemption?  Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Fur Institute of Canada director Pierre-Yves Daoust helping sealer carry dead seal pup (Photo: Rebecca Aldworth/HSI)

After using provincially-held protected wilderness area Hay Island as his personal macabre laboratory (with the required permission of the Nova Scotia government being given freely, of course), Fur Institute of Canada director Pierre-Yves Daoust declared his testing of low-velocity bullets to be a “success.”  Daoust told media the experiment using low-calibre bullets was a success, but then added that everything must be done differently next year – the number of pups killed inhumanely must be reduced; a more destructive bullet must be used; and sealers must wait until the seal pup stops moving before pulling the trigger (these are wild animals, threatened and terrified – of course they’re not going to stop moving…).  This leads one to wonder, quite reasonably, how the experiment could be termed a “success”…

One also has to wonder why he’s never discussed with media the experiment he conducted on Hay Island in 2009, killing 200 grey seal pups, reportedly to test the effectiveness of wooden bats on grey seals.  Sealing foes have stated for years the wooden bats favoured by Nova Scotian sealers are inappropriate to use on grey seal pups which have much thicker skulls than harp seal pups.  It has been rumoured that the experiment went awry, DFO scientists were unhappy over the manner in which it was conducted, DFO highers-up muzzled the scientists and no more was heard about the “research.”  It should be noted that this is all rumour and nothing has been confirmed yet.  Speculation abounds as to why details and conclusions of that research were not made available to media and public.  Perhaps because it would be extremely embarrassing for DFO to admit they’d been “mistaken” all these years insisting killing grey seals with wooden bats was humane when it was actually inhumane.  Such a revelation would cause the public to wonder what other claims by DFO about the seal hunt are “mistaken”…Notably, Nova Scotia sealers were using hakapiks this year, rather than their usual crude wooden bats.

Fur Institute Director Daoust dragging a pup killed by his sealing buddies (Photo: Rebecca Aldworth/Humane Society International

There is a clear conflict of interest in Daoust being involved in researching killing methods on Hay Island.  He is not an independent veterinarian – he sits on the board of directors of the Fur Institute of Canada, along with representatives of the Canadian sealing industry.  The Fur Institute is an organization that receives government funding and lobbies on behalf of the commercial seal hunt.  When a Hay Island hunt in 2009 looked unlikely due to lack of buyers, the Fur Institute stepped in and arranged for Newfoundland-based NuTan Furs to purchase 200 seal pelts as “samples” for “potential buyers.”  (NOTE: the samples failed to impress, as there were no buyers in 2010 and the hunt had to be cancelled.)  Daoust recently stated he finds working with sealers “gratifying.”  It would not be unreasonable for one to assume he wants to be a sealer himself, given his behaviour on Hay Island this year.

Anyone who has watched the video footage and seen the photos from the Hay Island kill this year would find it difficult to agree with Daoust that the low velocity ammunition was a success.  Video of a sealer shooting one pup and then chasing its blood-covered nursery mate around in a circle for a full 30 seconds before finally shooting it as it lay cowering on the body of the first seal has surfaced on international news websites, sparking global outrage.  There is also footage of a terrified group of pups struggling to escape from a sealer as he leisurely following them, rifle aimed, pursuing them down among a cluster of rocks before finally shooting them in close proximity to each other.  There is nothing humane about causing unnecessary fear and distress to animals before killing them.  Even Daoust’s own statement that sealers must wait til seals stop moving before attempting to shoot them suggests it is not a quick and humane method of killing.  Seals are moving because they are afraid and trying to flee or protect themselves from the rifle-wielding sealer.  Daoust’s statement suggests sealers terrorize the pup, pursuing it until it can go no further or is too exhausted to struggle, before shooting it.  This does not sound humane to me.

Daoust says he finds it “gratifying” to work with Nova Scotian sociopaths (Photo: Rebecca Aldworth/Humane Society International)

But then, this experiment had nothing to do with animal welfare and humane killing methods.  It had everything to do with removing the “unpleasant optics” as referred to by former Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.  The Canadian government and sealing industry claim shooting seals is more humane than clubbing seals, pointing out the majority of seals are shot, not clubbed.  Anyone watching video from previous years knows better than to believe shooting is a more humane death for these baby seals.  During the harp seal hunt, sealers are in boats heaving in rough waters, shooting at targets on a bobbing icepan.  Very rarely is a pup rendered unconscious or dead with the first bullet.  Every year at the harp seal hunt I see pups shot and left suffering on the ice before being hooked in the face and hauled on board where they are then either clubbed on the deck of the boat or thrown on a pile of carcasses to die slowly from their wounds.

The Canadian government and industry insist the commercial seal hunt is humane, yet they continually claim “improvements” will make the killing “humane.”  Just look at the much-heralded “three step process” which requires a sealer to stun, check for consciousness and bleed a seal before skinning.  Government claimed the three-step process would ensure the killing was humane.  Yet according to them, it was already humane.  So why the need for the process?  Because the Canadian government was trying desperately to stave off an impending European Union seal product ban.  In practical terms, the three step process as stipulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not even conform to international veterinarian standards for humane slaughter.  Furthermore, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea admitted last year many sealers don’t even know how to perform the three-step process and need training.  There was at least one sealer on Hay Island last month that did not perform the three-step process.

The Canadian government is currently in the process of appealing the EU-wide seal product ban before the WTO, complaining the ban does not provide exemptions for so-called humanely harvested product.  So of course it is desperate to clean up the “unpleasant optics.”  The Canadian government knows the grey seal hunt in Nova Scotia is now more accessible to observers for documentation than the harp seal hunt, and it knows the documentation collected on Hay Island to date has been extremely damaging to government and industry’s claims the killing is humane.  Government and industry appear to believe that if clubs and hakapiks can be disposed of and replaced by rifles, the killing will look less violent and more sanitized.  I think they’ll find they are mistaken, just as their belief the so-called “three step process” would win the day was mistaken.

Photo HSI/R. Aldworth

Today was a truly awful day for grey seals.  The sealers descended on Hay Island early this morning and swung their clubs and hakapiks and shot their rifles until all moulted pups were dead.  Not content with that, they then shot at least one adult grey seal.

DFO was up to its old tricks trying to restrict observation of the Hay Island slaughter and as a result, by the time I got on the island, the sealers had finished their killing spree.  The carnage that I witnessed was heartbreaking.  As I walked across the island I saw small pups lying next to pools of blood where their nursery mates had been slaughtered right in front of their eyes.  I saw a massive bull that had been shot, lying close to a female and a whitecoat.  I saw a group of sealers laughing and smiling as they worked over a pile of carcasses, getting them ready to winch onto one of the sealing boats.

Photo: HSI/R. Aldworth

Thankfully, these unfortunate pups did not die without witnesses.  Humane Society International was on the island, as was media.  I have watched the video footage of HSI and reviewed their photographs and it was a horrible flashback to 2008 when I first witnessed the slaughter of grey seals on Hay Island.  Relentless repeated clubbing of terrified weeks-old pups in front of their nursery mates, whitecoats crawling through pools of blood, cuddling up to dead seals, not understanding what was happening…but there was something different this year – the testing of the low-velocity ammunition that the director of the Fur Institute of Canada/wildlife pathologist Daoust had wanted to conduct, claiming he thought this would be a more humane killing method.  Well, from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s definitely not humane.  Seals had to be shot multiple times, or clubbed after being shot.  One pup flailed about crying out in pain after being shot the first time and had to be finished off.  One sealer leisurely followed a group of terrified pups as they attempted to escape.  He took his time, advancing after them as they jostled against each other in panic to escape, before finally shooting one.  I saw a picture of one sealer tormenting a terrified pup as it sat next to a dead pup.  What sort of sick demented soul enjoys tormenting animals in this manner?  ‘Sick’ and ‘demented’ are two very apt words to describe Nova Scotia sealers. 

Photo: ACASC/B. Curran

My government has betrayed Nova Scotians again.  The provincial government must give permission for a slaughter to occur on Hay Island and each year they give that permission despite the clear evidence of cruelty and unsustainability.  Hay Island is a provincial nature reserve – it does NOT belong to commercial industry.  Hay Island is held in trust for us by the government.  The government has betrayed that trust time and time again.  Nova Scotians should be outraged about this and demand their government respect their wishes and protect grey seals in this province.

It is a comfort to know that most pups born on Hay Island this year escaped harm, having moulted and left the island before the sealers arrived.  It is also a comfort to know the grey seal hunt in Nova Scotia is just about finished.  Kill numbers have been decreasing in past years.  Baby seal killer Robert Courtney’s original claims of a buyer for the full quota of 1,900 never materialized.  If he’d had a buyer he would’ve been over to the island the moment DFO announced the official start date.  He wasn’t held up by weather every day – there was a window of opportunity and he didn’t take it.  It was a repeat of 2009 — no markets, no buyer, so a buyer was manufactured thanks to funding from the Fur Institute of Canada (and the federal government) to facilitate a “commercial harvest” and dubious scientific studies.  They needed to kill 100 seals for their experiment this year, and they killed approximately 100 seals.  What a coincidence.

Photo: ACASC/B. Curran

Gail Shea recently said, “To this end, the Hay Island grey seal harvest is properly regulated and effectively monitored, and those who break the rules are held to account.”  Reviewing the HSI video shot today, I saw violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations and saw no sealers “held to account” for those violations.  Shea is misleading the public into believing seals are hampering fish stock recovery and growing exponentially.  Neither is true.  Shea has the nerve to call us liars while she continues to spread untruths to Canadians.  She is the ultimate hypocrite and should be removed from her position immediately. 

There is no future for the sealing industry in Canada.  It is finished.  But the government fights on, with an endless supply of taxpayer dollars, lavishing millions on a crumbling industry that employs a tiny fraction of the population of the country, putting our international reputation, tourism industry and free trade talks with the EU at risk.  To continue killing seals flies in the face of science, logic and compassion.  There is simply no logic to it.  It is a grudge match, nothing more.  The Canadian government simply does not want to admit defeat and do the decent thing.

Tonight I reflect with sadness upon those poor souls slaughtered so mercilessly today on Hay Island and vow that in the coming year I will work harder than ever to ensure this never happens again.

I’m here in Sydney with the HSI team, getting all my gear ready for tomorrow.  I was really hoping the seals would be spared again this year, as they were last year.  But it’s not to be.  Tomorrow’s weather forecast is favourable for the sealers so they’ll be heading out to Hay Island first thing in the morning, intent on killing every moulted pup they find. 

When they set foot on Hay Island with their clubs and guns we will be there too, with our cameras.  We will be intent on filming the cruelty of this slaughter and sharing it with the world in order to shut markets down once and for all.

It is a small comfort to know that many young pups have already moulted and swum away to safety.  There are still, however, unfortunate babes that will fall victim to these sealers and their bloodlust.  One ordinarily would wonder why they’re bothering to go at all.  Dingwall baby seal killer Robert Courtney had boasted to media he had a buyer for all 1,900 pups.  However, they waited so long to go to the island that most of the pups have gone.  They had been held up by bad weather but Monday was a perfect day yet they had failed to go.  Why? 

It’s strangely reminiscent of 2009 when the deal fell through and it looked as if there would not be a slaughter on the island.  The Fur Institute orchestrated a hasty deal, with Newfoundland’s Nu-Tan Furs offering to purchase 200 skins for “fabric samples for potential buyers” (the purchase monies, no doubt, came from the federal government).  This allowed the sealers to do what they love to do – bludgeon baby seals to death - and facilitated the study of the effectiveness/humaneness of using wooden bats on thick-skulled grey seal pups.  It was so obviously a setup – a “bailout for the boys.”  I suspect, personally, this is what is happening now.  I suspect as the sealers go to Hay Island, they’re not concerned about all the pups that have made their escape; they’re not concerned they won’t reach the quota of 1,900.  Their sole purpose is to blow the heads off 100 seal pups in an gruesome experiment simply because Fur Institute of Canada director / wildlife pathologist Dauost thinks it might be a more humane way to kill seals.

Tomorrow is going to be a long hellish day full of images and sounds that will likely haunt me for the rest of my days.  But it has to be done.  We will end this.  Everyone knows there’s no future to Canada’s sealing industry.  Even its most ardent fans know it deep in their stony hearts – it’s over.  Very soon, in the near future, grey seals in Nova Scotia will be protected and valued not for the price their skin fetches but for the price a tourist will pay to photograph them in their natural setting. 

Here are three simple things you can do right now to help Nova Scotia grey seals.

I will likely not be able to upload my photos and videos until later tomorrow night, but will try to update through my iPhone, posting photos via Facebook and Twitter.  I will update this blog tomorrow night.

Off to bed now for a few hours of sleep.

Over the past couple of days I have been reading news reports that Fur Institute of Canada Director Pierre-Ives Daoust (who also happens to be a veterinarian) is planning to conduct experiments blowing Hay Island grey seal pups’ brains out with low-velocity bullets.  Well, actually, Daoust won’t be doing the brain-blowing himself – apparently he did his share of that last year.  No, this year DFO has hired two Cape Breton Neanderthals sealers to put down their wooden bats long enough for a spot of target shooting practice while a veterinarian trails behind them taking notes.  I hope they’re not giving a firearm to Shane Briand as the word on the street is that he’s not particularly adept with firearms.  Just ask him how he lost his leg.

What sort of person is capable of beating these pups with a baseball bat? Dingwall sealers Robert Courtney and Pat Briand do it every year (Photo: Bridget Curran/ACASC)

Daoust claims he thinks using handguns may be “more humane” than clubs.  However, he maintains clubbing is a humane method and claims his only aim is to see if there is a better way to kill baby seals.  This is all very interesting.  Pro-sealing interests have long denied using clubs is an ineffective and inhumane method of killing grey seal pups which are larger and have substantially thicker skulls than harp seal pups.  In 2009 DFO conducted a study – again using Hay Island baby grey seals as their grisly test subjects – reportedly to determine whether this was true.  Notably, the results of that study have never been published.  The word on the street is that something went horribly wrong during the study and DFO Science was at odds with the MuckyMucks of the Regional Office over the study itself and its results.  So the study was never published and in 2010 the Nova Scotia government and Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans authorized a slaughter on Hay Island using the controversial wooden bats.  Thankfully, the slaughter was cancelled when sealkillers could not secure a buyer. 

NS fishermen bludgeoning pups 2008 Photo: HSI/Canada

But in reality this has nothing to do with what may be “more humane” and has everything to do with what may look better.  Just as Newfoundland premier Danny Williams and Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn considering banning the hakapik from the harp seal hunt because of the “unpleasant optics” so too does DFO and Daoust wish to abolish the wooden bat and club to clean up the image of the grey seal hunt in Nova Scotia.

Anyone who seriously thinks using low-calibre bullets will have better optics than clubbing is incredibly naive.  On Hay Island, grey seals of all ages are herded together, including newborns and nursing females, and the moulted pups are killed mere inches from each other while traumatized mothers try to defend their young.  When the wooden bat was the killing implement the sights and sounds of it were hellish.  But using a gun will be no better.  Discharging loud firearms in a throng of terrified seals, brain-matter splattering all over traumatized newborn whitecoats, their mothers and other moulted pups as they try to escape…yeah, that’s REAL humane and REAL optic-friendly.

Dead grey seal pup Hay Island 2008 Photo: HSI

It’s time for the government and pro-sealing interests to face facts and stop trying to find lame justifications for exterminating seals.  DFO has evidence fish stocks in waters heavily populated by grey seals are rebounding.  Biologists are stating rate of growth of seal populations has slowed, they are stabilized and self-regulating.  Bang goes government and industry’s claims of “seals eating all the fish” and “exploding seal populations.” 

The truth, however unpalatable it may be to sealkiller fans, is that seals are worth far more alive than dead.  The commercial sealing industry is an unprofitable and failing enterprise, relying heavily on government subsidies via Canadian taxpayers, that threatens to damage tourism in this country and this province in particular.  Visitors to this province are horrified to learn we club baby seals to death in provincial nature reserves and many express a reluctance to return until the killing of grey seals is stopped.  As top predators seals play a vital role in our complex marine ecosystem.  Removing seals will damage our marine ecosystem and our tourism industry.  Conversely, an abundance of seals in this province can assist in fish stock rebounding and can bring in a vast amount of tourism dollars by way of seal-watching tours

Grey Seal pups on Pictou Island 2011 Photo ACASC/B. Curran

Why has DFO not published its long-overdue Science Advisory Report on the “impact of grey seals on fish populations?  Why has DFO gone ahead and set a grey seal quota of 60,000 – an increase of 10,000 from last year - in the absence of a current and valid Seal Management Plan?  Why has DFO not published its findings from the “science research” done on Hay Island in 2009 to determine the effectiveness of wooden bats on thick-skulled grey seals?  Is it true there is acrimony between DFO Science and the highers-up in the region about the results of this research?  Alot of questions, and DFO doesn’t seem to want to answer any of them…

Nothing can ever be done to make this slaughter humane, or to even appear humane, because it is NOT.  And that’s why it must end.  And it WILL end, whether pro-sealing apologists like it or not.  It’s just a question of whether the Nova Scotia sealers such as Robert Courtney, Pat Briand and his degenerate knuckle-dragging sons, and Willie Murphy want to stay in the Dark Ages with their club in hand, or move forward into the 21st century, put down their club and demand a licence buyout from the government for a better future for themselves and the next generation.

Bridget Curran
Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition


Photo ACASC/B. Curran

Today I was lucky enough to visit Pictou Island with members of the Grey Seal Conservation Society and a documentary producer who is making a film about grey seals in this province.   A few weeks ago it was reported that due to lack of ice in the Northumberland Strait, thousands of grey seals had come ashore on Pictou Island to give birth and nurse their young.  We’d been trying to get over to the island for a couple of weeks but the weather had made it impossible.  Today we had a narrow window of opportunity and we seized it! 

Getting to Pictou Island wasn’t difficult.  A two-hour drive to Trenton and a 15-minute plane ride and we were there.  But it was as if we’d stepped into another world.  And what a beautiful world!  Pictou Island is stunning in the winter, so I can only imagine how beautiful it must be during the summer months.  People who live there are truly fortunate.

Photo ACASC/B. Curran

The pilot had arranged beforehand for some kind residents to drive us to the various sites to photograph the seals.  I can’t even begin to convey the feeling of utter joy that swept over me when I saw the first pups on the beach.  The last time I’d visited grey seals was last year on Hay Island, a protected wilderness area that has been opened to commercial sealers since 2008.  That visit was tinged with sadness, as the pups were marked for an agonizing death at the hands of Nova Scotia fishermen wielding wooden bats.  This time, I knew these pups were safe and it meant the world to be able to sit with them and celebrate their life.

Photo ACASC/B. Curran

Many of the pups had moulted their white coats and taken to the water by the time we got there, and only a fraction remained on the island.  Fully-moulted pups were hanging out with moulting pups and a few recently-weaned whitecoats.  And they were everywhere!  On the beach, across the road in the woods, along the side of the road…Most of the adults were gone as well.  Females will wean their young, mate with a bull, and then leave.  I saw a few bulls swimming in the water, but only one or two adult females.

After a couple of hours photographing and videotaping the grey seals we reluctantly returned to the mainland while the weather held.  

Photo ACASC/B. Curran

The spell was somewhat broken when, as we were leaving, someone made a comment about how it would only be a matter of time before fishermen called for a cull of grey seals on Pictou Island.  Sad but true.  Fishermen ignorantly and stubbornly continue to insist ”there are too many seals” and “they’re eating all the fish” despite a complete lack of scientific proof to back up those claims.  In fact, science tells us just the opposite.  Seals are aiding in fish stock recovery and their populations are self-regulated and stabilized.  Still, the fishermen believe what they want to believe and pressure the government for culls and commercial hunts.  In Atlantic Canada generally what fishermen want, fishermen get.  The evidence is ignored - there is no justification for killing seals and in fact every justification for protecting them.; the majority of Canadians are opposed to the annual commercial seal slaughter; there are no commercial markets -  and today in 2011 the provincial government has again colluded with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans to facilitate the killing of 1,900 grey seals pups on Protected Wilderness Area Hay Island; the federal government currently is contemplating a scheme wherein 220,000 grey seals will be slaughtered and incinerated on Canada’s newest national park Sable Island; and the federal government has set a quota of 60,000 grey seals in Atlantic Canada without even having a Seal Management Plan!  Hard to believe.

Photo ACASC/B. Curran

This obscene desire of government to keep sealers happy has blinded them to reality — seals are worth far more alive than dead.  Not only is DFO Science evidence emerging that grey seals are aiding in fish stock recovery in Scotian Shelf waters, but seal-watching could be an extremely successful tourism venture.  Many people are envious when I tell them of my visits with grey seals and show them the photographs.  I know many people who would pay alot of money to spend time with beautiful wildlife in stunning natural surroundings.  Grey seal watching tours on small islands in this province would be a real cash-earner.

It just makes sense.  Protect the seals.  Leave them alone to play their important role in our marine eco-system which is aiding fish stock recovery.  Leave them alone to birth and nurse on islands in Nova Scotia and allow tourists to photograph them in their natural surroundings.  Stop killing them and everyone benefits.