Fear and Loathing in Atlantic Canada

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

It appears that I am now the most hated man in Atlantic Canada.

It is amazing just how much trouble you can get into by simply stating your opinion.

My offensive statements were:

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy.

"One of the sealers was quoted as saying that he felt absolutely helpless as he watched the boat sink with sealers onboard,"  said Captain Paul Watson. "I can't think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can't swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club. This is a seal nursery and these men are sadistic baby killers and that might offend some people but it is the unvarnished truth - they are vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity."

I was also criticized for my timing with people saying it was offensive to say such a thing a few days before the funeral of the sealers.

However there were sealers on the ice killing seals at the time I made that statement and I found that to be very offensive.

Are we to refrain from our criticisms of the brutally cruel slaughter of 325,000 seal pups because three sealers killed by Canadian government incompetence were being buried?

Are we to be expected to tolerate the slaughter of the seals out of "respect" for the families of the sealers?

My description of the terror that a seal pup endures as a sealer approaches it on the ice was a genuine observation of truth. After years of witnessing the most horrific sadistic activities imaginable on the ice, my description of sealing as barbaric and sadistic does not even come close to the tragic reality of this on-going obscenity.

With media it is always a question of timing. If I had made these statements about the sealers at any other time - they would have been ignored by the Canadian media. The media in Canada does not report on opposition to the seal slaughter unless that opposition is dramatic, scandalous or controversial. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not make the rules that the media operates under, we simply play by those rules.

We have a message and that message is that the slaughter of 325,000 young seals is a threat to the survival of the species, a threat to the health and welfare of the oceans, it is the largest slaughter of a marine mammal population on the planet and it is exceptionally inhumane.

We also have to contend with a government that imposes censorship laws making it a crime to witness, film or photograph the killing of a seal without permission of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

We have a Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who hails from Newfoundland and represents the bias of seal killers only. He dismisses the concerns of the millions of Canadians and people around the world who oppose the seal slaughter.

Loyola Hearn also is using the seal defenders to distract from Canadian government incompetence that led to the deaths of four sealers while their small boat was being towed by a Canadian Coast Guard ice-breaker.

He is using the seals and the seal defenders as scapegoats to focus anger at the Federal government's destruction of the commercial fisheries. Instead of being angry at the government the fishermen have been given a target to hate and revile - us!

This is a complex public relations game and there are no simple rules. It is a question of moves and counter moves, bluffs and counter bluffs, deceptions and outrageous comments - it is a game that plays not just to Canadians in the Atlantic provinces but to Europe where a crucial vote has the potential of abolishing the market for the cruel products of the seal trade.

There are some who have criticized us saying that we should hate sealing and love the sealers - that is not their fault, that they are simple working men trying to earn a living, men with families and with feelings.

The people who say this have not been on the ice with us. They have not seen the traumatic brutality that we have witnessed - they have not heard the pathetic screams of seal pups as they struggle valiantly to escape the clubs, the knives and the bullets of the sealers. They have not seen seal pups run down and crushed into bloody pulp by government ice-breakers, they have not seen seal pups thrashing about in their own blood and vomited babies milk. They have not seen grieving mothers trying to nurse the frozen bodies of their young.

My answer to those who say we are insensitive is this? Where is your sensitivity to the feelings and the welfare of the seals that are being viciously hacked, clubbed, slashed and shot?

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society represents the seals - they are our clients. We speak for them. If people do not like what the seals have to say then we have no apologies for that. My description of what a young seal sees as a sealer approaches it is in fact what a seal pups sees before having his face bashed in by a club. That is a description of helplessness.

The seals will not suffer in silence, they will not be wiped out in a vacuum of apathy. They will be heard even if we have to outrage an entire nation.

For those who defend the way sealers make a living then why not defend those who grow cocaine for a living. They are people in Colombia far poorer than the sealers of Canada who also have families to support. Or opium growers in Afghanistan or bank robbers or hit men - everyone has a justification for their job. In fact the arguments being made to defend sealing are not much different than the arguments made by slavers in days long past to justify their abominable trade.

The Canadian seal slaughter is a glorified welfare project with Canadian tax-payers paying more to support the slaughter than the killing brings into the economy. If Canada paid the sealers to not kill seals the tax-payers would benefit.

To say that the slaughter of the seals is NOT a greater tragedy than the deaths of four of their killers is to trivialize the suffering of hundreds of thousands of defenseless animals.
After all the seals did not kill the sealers and neither did we. Those men died because of an arrogant policy of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans so that men like Loyola Hearn can appease the people whose livelihoods from commercial fishing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans destroyed.

How many more sealers will Hearn kill? How many more innocent seals will he have slaughtered? How many seal defenders will he jail before Canada recognizes that this barbaric, sadistic, costly and unnecessary industry has no place in a civilized world?