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.