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