Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Written in baby seal blood: "F@ck Off"

This seal was struck by the hunter and wounded before it escaped into the water so it is not included in Canada's quota of 275,000 seals this year.

On Monday the IFAW team continued to document Canada's commercial seal hunt off the east coast of Cape Breton. We saw four boats; two medium size boats and two small skiffs, along with the Coast Guard vessel. The boats were moving through the ice pans searching for the young pups. Although this is my seventh year documenting Canada's commercial seal hunt, one can never be completely prepared for the cruelty that we witness. We documented sealers both shooting seals from their boats and clubbing them on the ice.

I saw animals being shot from boats and injured; these young seals were not killed quickly or humanely like the Canadian government claims they are. One animal was crawling around on the ice bleeding for over a minute before the boat arrived and a sealer jumped down onto the ice pan to kill it with a club. It never ceases to amaze me that sealers see a seal crawling around on the ice suffering, yet they don't act quickly and shoot the animal again to put it out of it's misery.

IFAW documents the seal hunt for a few days a year and we can only be filming one boat at time. Yet every year we see animals being shot or clubbed and left to suffer. We see animals hooked and skinned alive, as we did yesterday. The most striking image from yesterday's footage involved a seal that was injured and then hooked in the face and dragged back to the boat. We were moving between boats and came across a sealer on the ice with what appeared to be a dead seal. He started writing in the snow with a bloody finger; the message was "F@ck Off".

As we were circling to get a better shot of his message to us, the seal that was on the ice behind him, tried to sit up! This was clearly not swimming reflex, this animal was still conscious. The sealer did not respond by taking action to quickly kill the seal as required by the Marine Mammal Regulations, instead he hooked it in the face and then proceeded to drag the animal across the ice and onto the boat, still alive. What we document out here is unacceptable and the world needs to see what only a few people have the ability to view in person. IFAW is here to document the hunt so that the world can see that this hunt is inherently cruel and is not monitored or enforced like the government claims.
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This seal was struck by the hunter and wounded before it escaped into the water. This is known as seal that has been struck and lost.

The following are eye-witness accounts from crewmembers onboard the Farley Mowat. The very witnessing of these events is considered illegal by the Canadian government.

We encountered the sealing vessel the Cathy Erlene, registered to Sydney NS. Upon approach we saw two small aluminum boats carrying two men each darting from ice floe to ice floe searching for baby seals. It seemed they had a system. The barbarians on the Cathy Erlene were cruising through the ice searching for the few seal pups there were. They carried on their disgusting massacre carelessly firing upon the unsuspecting babies, their only goal to find and maim the infants. We witnessed two helpless victims, meters from the ship writhing in agony, hot blood spilling onto the ice and heard their cries as they continued to suffer for a good long time awaiting the small boats to arrive and fulfill their doom. Stepping onto the ice the babies, still alive turn their heads to the approaching man with a club. There is nothing humane about this massacre. What I saw today I will never forget, their cries will fill my thoughts and torture my soul. I can say I am truly embarrassed to be of the same race as these cowards and ashamed to be a Canadian today.
-Shannon Mann, Canada

Nothing prepared me for this, no video or previous encounter with the sealers on the ice. I watched in horror and disgust as two murderers clammered from their small boat, club in hand, and smashed in the skull of a baby harp seal. For an hour or so my memories are fuzzy with blood, abuse and worst of all the cries of seals as they are brutally killed. We will do whatever we can to expose this unnecessary, disgusting slaughter of life. Canada can not continue to censor its dirty secret any longer.
- Laura Dakin UK

First sight of human life on the ice I see two men lifting a seal impaled through the neck onto a sealing boat... the seal was still moving. There was lots of ice covered with blood everywhere. There was a larger boat that the smaller boats were dropping off the seals to be skinned, one of the crew of the boat got up to wave smuggly at us. They were skinning them and throwing the seal carcasses back overboard. They call it a seal hunt but I don't think walking up to a stationary seal and smashing its head in is hunting, it is an act of pure cruelty. No wonder they don't want the rest of the world to see what is happening.
- Daniel Bishop, England

It is untrue to say that killing these seals is being done humanely. Today we have seen sealers shooting the baby seals to wound them so they can't flee, beating them with wooden clubs then killing them by cutting thearteries under their flippers. The seals die slowly and in pain. It is a horrible thing to see.
- Dr Merryn Redenbach, Australia

When I woke this morning I looked through the port hole and saw red patches of blood on the ice and I knew the seal hunt had begun. On the deck I immediately saw a small boat and two men who stopped on a little piece of ice in order to slaughter an innocent baby harp seal. Actually there were two small boats and one sealing ship. The hunters carried a hakapik and bashed the seal's head. Some of the seals were still alive when they were delivered back to the sealing ship where they were finally skinned.
- Anne Fourier, France


wagga said...

This is very upsetting. I just cried for the first time in years.

I'll get back with something constructive later.

Anonymous said...

The Canadian government takes threats of a ban "very seriously" and will defend "the legitimate sustainable, humane, economic activity for some of the most disadvantaged people in our country," he said.

Akubi said...

Isn’t it awful? A coworker came by while I was watching the video and was really disturbed. He had no idea Canada was still killing so many baby seals. It amazes me how many people are completely unaware of this massacre.

Boycott Canadian Fish said...

The baby seal looks into the eyes of her executioner. Barely a flicker of emotion shows on the fisherman's face as he smashes a steel-tipped club into her mouth. She lies whimpering on the ice, blood pouring from her jaw and nose.

But she is not yet dead, so the sealer hits her in the face another four times before slamming a hooked "hakapik" club into her stomach and dragging her across the ice towards the ship.

Yet even this savagery is not enough to kill the poor creature.

A few seconds later, the pup starts wriggling furiously. She is clearly still alive, though in terrible agony. The fisherman smashes her head another three times.

I pray to myself that she is dead before she is skinned - but from where I am standing, it is impossible to tell.

Sad to say, this pitiful scene was far from unique when I visited the Canadian ice floes last weekend to see whether the introduction of new rules designed to make the country's annual seal cull "humane" have been properly implemented.

Under these regulations, a pup must first be shot or battered into unconsciousness.

The fisherman then has to check that an animal is fully "insensible" before slicing open the arteries near its flippers, allowing the creature to "bleed out" before it can be skinned.

These rules were brought in to forestall a possible EU ban on the import of sealskins.

The European Commission is currently mulling over a ban which, if it becomes law, would destroy the sealing industry.

As Phil Jenkins, spokesman for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, explains: "We're trying to make sure there is no possible way that a seal could be skinned while it was irreversibly unconscious but not dead.

"It's really going the extra mile to make sure that it's as humane as it can be."

Having travelled to Nova Scotia to investigate the slaughter at close range, I can say categorically that the new rules are being completely ignored by the fishermen.

They are not even paying lip service to them.

To make matters worse, not only are the Canadian authorities making no attempts to enforce the legislation, they are also desperately trying to prevent the media and other observers witnessing what really goes on.

I spent almost a week on the east coast of Canada trying to observe the cull but at every step the local authorities did their best to stop me.

They consistently refused to issue the media and animal welfare campaigners with the necessary permits to observe the cull.

On Saturday afternoon, though, I finally managed to get hold of one (which has since been withdrawn).

Such obstructions are matched by the hostility of the sealers themselves, who have become increasingly aggressive towards independent observers.

On previous trips, Canadian fishermen have threatened me with knives, guns and hakapiks. Two years ago, when I visited the floes with a group of MEPs, we were involved in a high-speed car chase in which sealers repeatedly tried to force us off the road.

We were eventually forced to barricade ourselves into a hotel, where we remained for eight hours while officials from the European Commission and the U.S. embassy negotiated our release.

The authorities justify reporting restrictions by claiming that animal welfare campaigners and the media have consistently misrepresented the cull.

They claim that the images used to accompany reporting are, in some cases, decades out of date.

Loyola Sullivan, Canada's fisheries ambassador and head of the delegation to the EU, says: "We are not going to be bullied or blackmailed into forcing people who depend on the sealing industry out of their livelihoods using baseless allegations."

Yet when I finally made it to the ice floes on Saturday, in a helicopter provided by the Humane Society of the United States, the carnage was every bit as horrific as the pictures suggest.

Swathes of ice were drenched in blood. Piles of carcasses lay steaming in the sunshine. Fishing boats were off-loading men armed with hakapiks.

They fanned out across the ice, killing all that came within range.

Many of the fishing boats were pouring seal blood into the sea, turning it scarlet. Other sealers were casually tossing the skinned bodies of pups into the sea.

A few will have been cutting the hearts out of the baby seals ready to eat for breakfast - an age-old tradition amongst sealers.

I witnessed dozens of seals being battered to death.

At "best" only one was killed in full accordance with the new regulations. About a quarter were tested for death before being skinned but we saw only one pup having its arteries sliced open and left to "bleed out".

Such scenes will be repeated hundreds of thousands of times over the coming weeks.

At least 275,000 baby seals will be killed so that their skins can be made into cheap fur coats, leather shoes and tacky trinkets.

The great tragedy of the slaughter is that it was stopped 25 years ago, following a ban on the import of seal pelts into the European Union - a ban that destroyed the economics of the industry.

But the Canadian government eventually found a loophole and ruthlessly exploited it.

Five years ago, the cull re-started with a vengeance when the authorities ordered the battering to death of a million baby seals.

I was there to watch the horror unfold - the first British journalist in a generation to document the cull.

Since then, another 1.5million baby seals have been slaughtered - almost one-third of the seal population.

Every year, British and European politicians have rushed to condemn the slaughter. Yet every year they have failed to take concrete action.

Now, at last, there is a glimmer of hope.

Stavros Dimas, the EU's Commissioner for the Environment, said this week that the European Commission would soon propose an outright ban on the import of seal pelts.

"The Commissioner is very concerned at the inhumane way that baby seals are killed," said a spokeswoman. "Last year, we sent a team of expert observers. What the team saw did not alleviate the Commissioner's worries."

These may turn out to be just weasel words designed to ward off action for another year - but this time there is a sense that the end of the slaughter could be near.

Several countries have already taken independent action to ban seal pelt imports.

But our own Government is dithering, saying that ministers have "written again to Environment Commissioner Dimas and others reiterating UK support for an EU-wide ban".

British animal welfare campaigners are wary of such words.

Mark Glover, of the Humane Society International, says: "We've heard the same excuses for three or four years now. A European ban is crucial but the UK should also act on its own.

"We cannot see any reason why they won't do so.

"It's quite clear that the sealers are failing to adhere to the new regulations. It's the same old hunt we've seen in the past."

After witnessing the slaughter at close hand, it would be impossible to disagree.

Ogg the Caveman said...


wagga said...

Billions for Millions:

At the store check out the Country of Origin Label (COOL).

At the restaurant ask if the seafood comes from Canada - and reject it if so!

Current boycott losses are ca. 10 times sealing income.

The real problem is that our species is just not culled. Just way far too many (so-called) humans

Project SCOBY Doo™ said...

I’ve been reflecting on the degree of disturbance this baby seal slaughter causes me and I think it is even beyond the gruesomeness in and of itself, but symbolizes on a more direct level what many of us do indirectly.
For example, remember those U.S. soldiers in Iraq who raped that 13 or 14 year old Iraqi girl, shot her family and lit her on fire afterwards?
Whatever came of that?
I don’t now. While I never, ever had anything to do with voting George W into office, I do feel blood on my hands in that my tax money produced the disgusting event.
No taxation or representation is the American way these days.

Buzz Saw said...

Treehugger is on it too.