Bearing Witness

By on March 29, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Posted by Rebecca Aldworth

Today I saw defenseless baby seals slaughtered without mercy on Canada’s ice floes. It is with a very heavy heart that I write this, following eight unbearable hours of bearing witness to the slaughter. 

Sealer before clubbing a seal
© The HSUS/Kathy Milani
A sealer, moments before clubbing a seal.

I understand why the Canadian government has fought so hard to stop us from observing the hunt this year… While the my government is busy telling the world that this year’s slaughter will somehow be more humane, we have proved today it is the same hunt we have always filmed.

This is my 10th year bearing witness to Canada’s commercial seal hunt, and nothing has changed—the killing is every bit as cruel as it has ever been. I did not see one sealer follow the supposedly new 3-step killing process, and many sealers failed to even check to see if seals were dead prior to impaling them on metal hooks and dragging them across the ice floes.

I watched helplessly from above as one by one, the seals were brutally clubbed, stabbed with hooks and dragged across the ice as they struggled. There are few words to describe how hard it was to see the same pups we filmed just days ago meet such a barbaric end.

Seals are dragged onto a sealing vessel
© The HSUS/Marcus Gyger
Sealers drag a seal March 29.

Nigel Barker and his film crew were also at the hunt today. Nigel’s words capture so well all of our thoughts at the end of this terrible day. He said, “I witnessed with my own eyes, my own camera and my own video crew blatant violations of the rules and regulations by sealers. Several weeks ago, I documented the birth of the seal pups or ‘white coats,’ and, earlier this week, photographed the beautiful silver, speckled two-week-olds, and today the mass killing of every young seal in sight in the most brutal and barbaric fashion. I will never forget what I have seen and will never stop until it ends.”

But even as we filmed the killing of the seals, we thought of other deaths. Today’s tragedy of three sealers drowning—and one still missing—when their boat capsized in the hazardous ice was just another reason why Canada’s commercial seal hunt should be ended for good. Each year, sealing vessels are ruined by the treacherous ice, sealers are injured—and some even die. In many ways, the sealers are also victims of this brutal hunt.

We call on the Canadian government to immediately take action to end this needless slaughter through a generous sealing license retirement program. A sealing industry buyout would not only save the seals, but it could save the sealers too.

In the meantime, the European Commission holds in its power the ability to right an international wrong. By ending its trade in seal products, the EU can remove the financial incentive for these sealers to kill the pups. I can only hope that this year will be the last slaughter we will have to witness.

Humane Society International

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