Shame on Canada
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Shame on Canada

 By Lilly Montgomery
April 2005

On March 29th 2005, the largest slaughter of mammals on the planet began in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. By the time it ends in May, more than 300,000 baby harp seals (most under 12 days old) will have been brutally smashed to death. Armed with clubs and hakapiks (large ice-pick-like clubs), sealers bludgeon, hack then skin pups while they are still conscious and able to feel pain, leaving them to die on the ice in pools of their own blood.

In 2001, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a report by an independent team of veterinarians who studied the hunt concluded that governmental regulations regarding humane killing were neither being respected nor enforced, and that the seal hunt failed to comply with Canada's most basic animal welfare regulations.

Canadian officials, the Coast Guard, Mounties and local authorities not only condone this horror, they protect sealers by ramming and tear gassing the Sea Shepard’s Flagship, the Farley Mowat, piloted by Captain Paul Watson and 12 crew members.

Watson has been steadfastly battling the seal slaughter since 1976. His actions are non-violent and non-confrontational – Watson and his crew simply document the butchery and photograph it.

Because of those photographs and his persistent protest, in 1977, he handcuffed himself to the winch of a sealing vessel. Enraged sealers dragged Captain Watson across the ice then slammed him into the side of their ship.

He was then dragged behind the ship, plunged repeatedly into the icy waters and hauled up to be dragged across the deck through a gauntlet of sealers while they punched and kicked him. He was hospitalized for pneumonia. As a result of those events and this man’s enormous courage, the seal hunt became-for the first time in history-headline news worldwide. He’s been fighting the seal hunt every year since.

On March 31st 2005, just two days after the killing began, 11 crewmembers of the Farley Mowat were beaten, arrested and imprisoned by Canadian authorities for taking photographs. They were arrested after 8 sealers physically attacked 7 Sea Shepard crewmembers with hakapiks and clubs. The Canadian authorities refused to investigate or charge the sealers – instead, they landed their helicopter, disembarked, assaulted the crewmembers physically, cuffed them and took them to jail. Americans numbered 7 of the 11 arrested crewmembers. The other crewmembers arrested were from Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany. All detained crewmembers from the Farley Mowat were released April 2nd and returned to their ship by helicopter (courtesy of the Human Society of the United States) after they threatened to refuse bail and go on a hunger strike.

Sealers allege the hunt is a long-standing tradition that generates income for their families and preserves a way of life. However, sealing is an off-season pursuit that accounts for only one twentieth of the sealer’s income with the bulk made up from commercial fisheries, so the “income” is miniscule… and tradition has been used to justify brutality since the earth cooled. It was tradition that justified head-hunting, cock-fighting, dog-fighting, Christians being thrown to the lions, white southerners’ slaving activities and the binding of feet for female Japanese socialites. Any society with a sense of morality and a conscience grows away from violence and abhorrent behavior with the raising of consciousness and passing of time. The 21st century just has no place for traditions that support intentional and demonstrably cruel conduct.

But “tradition” is just a smoke screen - the deeds of the sealers speak for themselves. You can see them documented by eyewitness accounts, backed up by film and photos at: http://seashepherd.org/news.html 

Of the more puzzling behavior, on April 2nd, from the Captain’s Log, Farley Mowat, Captain Paul Watson reports: “On board the L.J. Kennedy, from Newfoundland was one rather strange lad who thought it was funny to drop his pants and underwear and masturbate as he made rude remarks to our female crewmembers.”

So what’s really going on here?

European markets have a taste for snowy white seal fur. Pups are born white, by 12 days of age their fur starts to turn dark. Fashion designers who promote fur are the driving force behind the carnage. Razor thin models strut down promenade decks flaunting the latest in fur design while model and celebrity wannabes and aging socialites squeal with delight and break out their checkbooks. Even though white seal pup fur is banned here in the states, there are parent companies headquartered here who have European outlets that carry sealskin and seal fur products. You can find a list of those companies at HSUS’s special site for baby seals: www.protectseals.org 

In 2004, more than 353,000 harp seals were killed for their fur—the largest slaughter witnessed in half a century.

According to HSUS:

· Polling shows 71% of Canadians—including 60% of Atlantic Canadians—support banning the seal hunt outright, or limiting the hunt to seals over one year of age. (Ipsos-Reid, 2004).

· In European Union countries where polling has been conducted—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands—close to 80% of people who are aware of the Canadian seal hunt oppose it (MORI, 2002).

· Polling shows 79% of American voters oppose the Canadian seal hunt (Penn, Schoen & Berland, 2002).

Kudos to Costco! From the Sea Shepard: Costco Wholesale Corporation pulled seal oil capsules from their store shelves in St. John's, Newfoundland, when a Sea Shepherd representative provided them with information on the sealing industry, in particular, the killing methods of the sealers.

Brokenhearted isn’t enough -

One thing you can do –if you eat fish or seafood- is to boycott Canadian seafood until they stop the seal hunt. Nearly 75% of US seafood is imported from Canada, generating a tidy 3 billion yearly for the Canadian economy. A seafood boycott is pressure they’ll feel. Please visit: http://www.sealhunt.ca / for a list of companies that support the killing of seal pups.

Be brave, educate yourself: www.animalchannel.org/ is not for the faint of heart. The videos displayed here are graphic and violent and may not be suitable for people with delicate sensibilities. That said, I think everyone should see it - not for it’s “shock” value, but because once seen you can never unsee it and you will forever know the truth. I recommend you keep a box of Kleenex handy.

Please say a special prayer for the baby seals...

They have never seen humans, so they don't even run away from sealers, until they've been clubbed once - the saddest thing Captain Watson talked about was a sealer who had a hakapik hooked in the flesh of in a little baby and the baby was still alive, he was dragging the pup across the ice and the mother seal was trying to run after the baby, crying and crying.

Please ask our Heavenly Father to be with those babies and their mothers... and maybe we could ask that He help the sealers to have a change of heart.


*All photographs belong to the Sea Shepard Conservation Society and are reprinted with permission.

Lilly Montgomery is a free-lance writer and can be reached at: lildeucecoupe@wildmail.com 

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