I believe I first betrayed my country when I witnessed, for the first time, a baby harp seal killed on the shore of New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when I was ten years old. I looked into the wide innocent eyes of a newborn whitecoat seal pup just before this thug of a fisherman smashed its skull in with a wooden club.
That was fifty years ago and I see it today for what it was then – cold-blooded, state supported murder of an innocent infant mammal whose life was ended just as he was discovering the world around him.
That image haunts and angers me still a half a century later.
It is because I stand in opposition to this horror that my government believes I am not a true Canadian. You see, in their eyes, to be a true Canadian is to accept and patriotically support the cruel inhumanity of clubbing baby seals to death and sometimes skinning them alive. The fisherman of Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands are the ideal Canadians in the eyes of most Canadian politicians. They revel in the history of blood and slaughter, from bestowing the Order of the British Empire on Abraham Kean, the ruthless killer of a million seals and dozens of sealing men, to having the Governor General eat a raw seal heart on national television. They have lionized uneducated baby killers into legendary courageous heroes upholding “noble” traditions and they have demonized any Canadian who has opposed the slaughter, people like Brian Davies, Rebecca Aldworth, and myself, for example.
Years ago when Canada set up the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing it toured Canada like some sort of traveling house of Un-Canadian Activities – rejecting any evidence of cruelty and ecological destruction and treating the sealers and their advocates like they were anointed disciples of Christ.
I was an angry child after witnessing the death of a baby seal and five decades later I continue to be angry with those countrymen of mine who club seals and strip the oceans of life without any thought or compassion for the destruction they inflict.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the six million seals, or whatever number is out there, killed or sold, or destroyed or burned. I do not care what happens to them.... What they (the fishermen) wanted was to have the right to go out and kill the seals. They have that right and the more they kill the better I will love it. (Hansard, May 4, 1998)
John Efford, Newfoundland Minister of Fisheries
Raised in a fishing village, I have no romantic illusions about fishermen. I’ve seen them pump oil over the sides of their boats. I’ve seen them shoot at birds and seals out of spite. I’ve seen them throw their garbage over the side of their boats. I’ve also seen them whine and moan about how seals, dolphins, and birds are “stealing” their fish. I’ve not met many fishermen with an understanding of ecology and very few with an empathy for the lives and feeling of other species.
What really irritates me is when these people plunder the oceans for years until they deplete and diminish the ecology and then demand compensation for the fact that there is nothing more to catch. After overfeeding themselves at nature’s trough and discovering that the fare is disappearing, they make demands to feed at the public trough. First they steal from nature and when there is nothing left, they steal from the taxpayer.
Their universal position seems to be that the rest of the world owes them, and must pay for the fish that they can no longer catch because of their own mismanagement. Politicians, ever fearful of upsetting the powerful fishing lobbies, obediently give them what they want. I call it homopecheaphobia or the fear by politicians of fishermen. The government spends excessive amounts of tax dollars buying the “integrity” of the scientific community in their employ, whom I refer to as biostitutes.
I have seen fishermen operating across the world. All of them blaming the diminishment of fish on other species. They blame the seals, the pelicans, the whales, the dolphins, the seagulls, the puffins, the sea otters-in short, everything but themselves. Politicians and their dutiful scientists are always there to back the hysteria.
I also believe that the very worst of these excuse-making-serial-fish-killers are the fishermen of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec who point their finger at the harp seal and who have massacred tens of millions of these innocent creatures over the years. In other words, the fishermen of my own country and my own region.
Because of my opposition to the brutality of the seal slaughter, I have, over the years, been beaten by sealers, Canadian police, and Fisheries officers. I have been jailed and fined, lost my ships, and routinely insulted and slandered by Canadian politicians.
It has all been worth it because after decades of fighting this bloody obscenity, at last the commercial market for seal products has been destroyed and despite the fact that Canada posted a ridiculous quota of over 400,000 seals last year, the kill was 38,000. In a fit of self righteous anger, the Canadian government set the quota for this season again at 400,000, knowing full well that less than 10% of that number will be taken, simply because there is no market for seal products in a civilized world.
This is not to say that Canada has not tried to create markets using tax dollars to beg Russia and China and other nations to buy seal products. It has gotten so silly that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken to trying to sell seal penises to China as an alternative to Viagra, some sort of miracle sex potion.
It is amazing how these Canadian politicians bend over to kiss the asses of these club swinging sadistic baby killing thugs. Some of them carry sealskin brief cases and seal meat is served in the Federal Parliamentary cafeteria. It would be rather comical if not for the very real infliction of suffering and death. With the harp seals threatened by global warming and diminishment of sea ice that is causing the drowning of tens of thousands of the pups every Spring, the Minister of Fisheries Keith Ashfield, a man from my own native province of New Brunswick, is seemingly devoid of empathy and mercy and has arrogantly called for the slaughter of four hundred thousand seals for 2012.
He parrots the fishermen’s pathetic whining about the seals eating “their” fish despite the fact that before the European occupation of North America there were some forty five million seals on the Eastern Seaboard and there was certainly no shortage of fish.
It is human greed that is responsible for the diminishment of the fish and scapegoating the seals will not bring the fish back, in fact it will make the situation worse because seals eat fish predators that prey upon cod and when seal populations are reduced it causes an increase in other species that prey upon cod, species like herring, mackerel, and capelin for example. Thus it continues, as the commercial seal hunt is reduced to a glorified welfare project with Canadian politicians bickering over which party loves fishermen best and all agreeing that any Canadian who is opposed to the killing of seals is really no kind of Canadian at all.
So just as I was declared to not be a co-founder recently by the revisionist directors of the Greenpeace Foundation, it appears I am now not even considered to be a Canadian. Oh well, I am still an Earthling, no wait, there was that Japanese protestor last year holding up the sign, “Sea Shepherd get off this Earth.” I love being so damn popular.