Canada Gives Green Light for Sealers to Violently Oppose Seal Defenders

Day Two of the Seal Slaughter (3/26)

Canadian seal killers, frustrated at the scarcity of seals, have been taking out their anger on seal defenders. On Saturday, sealers threw seal intestines and gore at Rebecca Aldworth and her team from HSUS. On Sunday, a sealing boat rammed her zodiac inflatable and damaged the prop on the boat.

Not surprisingly, no sealer was arrested or even given a warning to cease and desist from violence.

Last year, sealers attacked and assaulted Sea Shepherd crewmembers on the ice. The assaults were documented on video but the Mounties refused to lay charges.

Canada has in effect given a green light to sealers to violently respond to anyone attempting to document or interfere with their mass slaughter of harp seal pups.

For over three decades, Canadian sealers have been attacking seal defenders without a single arrest as a result of their violence. In all cases where the assaults were documented or witnessed by police - no arrests resulted.

A History of Violence Against Seal Defenders on the Ice

1977: Captain Paul Watson, who was handcuffed to winch line, was hauled into the sea and submerged into the icy waters by sealers. He was then hauled onto the deck, dragged through a gauntlet of sealers who kicked and spat on him. He was then thrown into a pile of seal carcasses. He suffered from pneumonia as a result for the next month. The assault was witnessed by the RCMP, Canadian Fisheries officers, and a lawyer for Greenpeace. No charges were laid against any sealers.

1979: Captain Paul Watson and eight of his crew onboard the Sea Shepherd were arrested by Fisheries Officers. Captain Watson was taken onboard the ice-breaker Wolfe and although soaked from being pushed into the sea by a Fisheries Officer, he was taken to the deck outside and forced to lie on his stomach for two hours and kicked each time he attempted to rise.

1981: Wayne Millard, an independent filmmaker, was assaulted by police on the beach of Cavendish National Park in Prince Edward Island when he documented the savage killing of seals by local sealers. They destroyed his film.

1983: The Sea Shepherd crew were arrested for approaching a seal hunt. Most of the twenty crew were roughed up by Mounties and Fisheries officers.

1983: AN IFAW helicopter was attacked and destroyed at the airport on the Magdalen Islands while RCMP and Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) watched. The attack was videotaped - no sealers were charged.

1995: A Sea Shepherd crew was attacked in their hotel on the Magdalen Islands by a mob of over 300. They damaged the hotel, threatened the life of actor Martin Sheen, beat Captain Paul Watson severely and threatened to kill him. They also beat up a British photographer and smashed his cameras. They destroyed a camera and assaulted Marc Gaede who was taking pictures for the Los Angeles Times. The assault on Captain Watson and the photographer took place in view of the Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) chief and a number of police officers. The attack was videotaped and the assailants were identified by name by Captain Watson. The QPP refused to lay charges

Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin responds by saying he "understood how the frustrations of the sealers led to violence."

2005: Sealers pointed rifles at the Sea Shepherd crew. Sea Shepherd crew were viciously assaulted on the ice and struck with clubs, punched, and kicked. The assault was videotaped. The RCMP refused to lay charges because they said that the presence of the Sea Shepherd crew on the ice provoked the violence against them.

On the same day, documentary crews from IFAW and HSUS were assaulted on the ice by sealers. These attacks were documented. No charges were laid.

2006: On the first day of the seal slaughter, a documentary crew under the leadership of Rebecca Aldworth was assaulted when sealers threw seal guts at them when they began to film the killing. The next day sealers rammed Rebecca's inflatable boat and damaged the prop. Again no sealers were charged.

During 29 years of protests against the sealing there have been numerous assaults and damage inflicted to the property of seal defenders with not a single arrest as a result.

During the same 29 years, there has not been a single assault against a sealer or any damage done to property owned by sealers.

During this same period of time, 40 Sea Shepherd crew have been arrested. Dozens of IFAW crew have been arrested - all for violations of the regulations that prohibit the documentation of the slaughter of seals.

On Saturday, the first day of the killing, some 3,000 seal pups were slaughtered by crews from over 50 boats making it an average kill of only 60 seals per boat. It was the lowest number ever taken on the opening day. The lack of ice has made it difficult for the sealers to find seals to kill. Due to the lack of ice, the seals are being shot. Many are falling into the water wounded and sinking. These kills are not included in the quota.

Veteran seal killer Jean-Claude LaPierre, spokesman for the sealers' association on the Iles de la Madeleine, said he and several other sealers have decided to tie up their boats for the next few days. He reported he only killed 60 seals on opening day. "We'll wait three or four days," LaPierre said. "Some boats are going further north to the Strait of Belle Isle where there is more ice."

The Gulf of St. Lawrence has a quota of some 90,000 seals. They usually take their quota in a week. Given the results of the first day, it will take a month to fulfill this quota. Because of the lack of ice, the sealers in the Gulf may not make their targeted quotas.

The overall quota of 325,000 seals for the Gulf and the Labrador Front is irresponsible. The quota was set for political reasons and an extra 5,000 was added to the quota this year apparently for no other reason other than to spite seal defenders.

The factor of the lack of ice due to global warming was not taken into account. The government of Canada has not produced any peer-reviewed scientific studies to back up their claim that there are six million seals in the region.

Nor has the government produced any evidence that the seals are killed humanely. The hundreds of hours of documentation of inhumane killing is impressive yet dismissed by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans as propaganda.

What is Sea Shepherd Doing?

We only have a couple of observers at the seal hunt this year. The reason for this is that our ship the Farley Mowat having just returned from Antarctica and presently in South Africa was too far away from the seal hunt to reach the area in time. Eleven of our crew arrested for the "crime" of observing a seal being killed are not allowed to enter Canada.

For the last year, Sea Shepherd has been fighting the regulations with a constitutional challenge in Canadian courts. We lost that challenge in November and we are presently appealing the verdict. We also had to defend our crew from charges of approaching and observing the seal kill without a permit. The crew were convicted and fined $1,000 each. That verdict is also being appealed.

On March 15th, Sea Shepherd organized a successful international day of protest before Canadian Consulates around the world.

On March 22nd, Captain Paul Watson appeared with Brigitte Bardot of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and Actress Persia White at a Media Conference in Ottawa to oppose the slaughter of seals. Captain Watson debated Senator Celene Hervieux-Payette on the Mike Duffy CTV national program.

On March 31st, Captain Watson will be participating in a debate in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has challenged Premier Danny Williams to debate him but the Premier has cowardly refused.

Sea Shepherd is promoting the international Boycott of Canadian Seafood products and is working in cooperation with groups like HSUS and to escalate this boycott.

Sea Shepherd is quite pleased at the fact that the Canadian seal slaughter has received more international attention this year than in all previous years going back to 1983 thanks to the participation of Sir Paul McCartney, Lady Heather Mills McCartney, Brigitte Bardot, Richard Dean Anderson, Martin Sheen, Dan Haggerty, and Rutger Hauer.

This has given the "save the seals" movement an incredible boost and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will continue working towards shutting this slaughter down in 2007.

We will never surrender and we will never forsake these seals - we must and we will end this obscenity of cruelty and waste.