Seal Wars! - Report from the Frontlines
The Frontlines of the campaign to abolish the slaughter of seals in Canada is now global. We are now fighting this obscene slaughter on the ice, in the courts, in the media, in Ottawa, and on the streets of dozens of countries around the world. Seal Warriors are musicians, actors, activists, hunger strikers, cartoonists, writers, consumers, chefs, retailers, travel agents, documentarians, pilots, poets, school children, college students, environmentalists, animal rights activists, conservationists, and the person next door. It is a rapidly growing movement against cruelty and ecological degradation.
LIES AND LYING CANADIAN SENATORS WHO TELL THEM
Canada is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the international public. Few people outside of Canada buy the argument that the slaughter of 325,000 seal pups is necessary or humane.
People are more inclined to believe their own eyes than the lies of politicians. When Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams tells 60 million viewers of the Larry King show that sealers do not kill seals with clubs and the viewers are watching images of sealers clubbing seals as they listen to him, they can see just how blatant these lies can be.
The Canadian media have become so desperate to justify the seal slaughter that they enlisted the hardly impartial right-wing lobbyist group Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) to attack the seal defenders with the bogus claim that the international Boycott of Canadian Seafood is not working.
Apparently, the CCF found a couple of restaurants that had signed onto the list to boycott Canadian fish but appeared to know nothing about it. That's what happens when the dishwasher answers the phone.
For a boycott that "is not working," the Canadian government is spending a great deal of money and effort to refute the effectiveness of the boycott, which tells us that the boycott is in fact being effective.
The government reports did not mention the ban on Canadian seafood by large U.S. retailers such as Trader Joe's, Whole Food Markets, Wild Oats, Marks and Spencer, Legal Seafood, etc...
Canadian Senator George Baker appeared on the CTV Mike Duffy program to claim that "Canada is the only country in the world that allows you to take a camera to the seal hunt to document the killing." This is, of course, not true - seal hunts in the rest of the world are documented and Canada is the only country that requires special permits to film or photograph. It is also the only country that has arrested and convicted people for witnessing and filming the slaughter.
Newfoundland Senator Baker also made the absurd claim that Canada is the only country that has banned the killing of baby seals and further claimed that Americans were killing whitecoated harp seals and blue-backed hood seal pups. Baker was introduced as a vegetarian by Mike Duffy, something that he is not.
Blatant lies. Canada kills baby seals. That is a substantiated and documented fact. The only difference between the seal slaughter today and that of twenty years ago is that the seals killed today are one week older. A baby seal is still a baby seal after losing the whitecoat.
Additionally, the United States does not have a commercial seal hunt. Fur seals are killed by Aleut Indians in the Bering Sea as a subsistence hunt - not whitecoats or bluebacks as Baker claims and not baby seals. There is no U.S. commercial seal hunt.
Baker was not the only Senator to lie about the seal slaughter. Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette debated Captain Paul Watson on the Mike Duffy program a week earlier and claimed that the hunt was for aboriginal people. When Captain Watson corrected her, she said, "Well, the sealers are Canadians." Captain Watson pointed out that he was also a Canadian and it was a lie to continue stating that this hunt is conducted by aboriginal people.
Senator Hervieux Payette also claimed that the hunt was humane. Captain Watson countered by saying that he had seen seal pups kicked in the face and skinned alive. The Senator said this was not possible because the hunt was humane. Captain Watson said, "Have you been on the ice Senator, have you seen the killing of the seals?" The Senator replied that she had not. "Then don't call me a liar, go there yourself, see for yourself and then come back and tell me that I'm lying."
THE GOVERNMENT LIES ARE NOT WORKING
Outside of Canada, the lies are falling on deaf ears. Sir Paul McCartney and Lady Heather Mills McCartney vowed to do everything they can over the next year to shut down the slaughter.
Musician Morrissey has announced he will not do any tours of Canada until the seal slaughter is shut down.
Morrissey released the following statement:
"We will not include any Canadian dates on our world tour to promote our new album. This is in protest against the barbaric slaughter of over 325,000 baby seals which is now underway.
I fully realise that the absence of any Morrissey concerts in Canada is unlikely to bring the Canadian economy to its knees, but it is our small protest against this horrific slaughter - which is the largest slaughter of marine animal species found anywhere on the planet.
The Canadian Prime Minister says the so-called "cull" is economically and environmentally justified, but this is untrue.
The seal population has looked after itself for thousand of years without human intervention, and, as the world knows, this slaughter is about one thing only: making money. The Canadian government will stream all of the pelts into the fashion industry and this is the reason why the baby seals are killed with spiked clubs that crush their skulls - any damage to their pelts is avoided. The Canadian Prime Minister also states that the slaughter is necessary because it provides jobs for local communities, but this is an ignorant reason for allowing such barbaric and cruel slaughter of beings that are denied life simply because somebody somewhere might want to wear their skin.
Construction of German gas chambers also provided work for someone - this is not a moral or sound reason for allowing suffering.
If you can, please boycott Canadian goods. It WILL make a difference. As things stand, Canada has placed itself alongside China as the cruelest and most self-serving nation."
Following on the heels of Brigitte Bardot's media conference in Ottawa, Pamela Anderson has requested a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on April 3rd. The Prime Minister will not be able to dismiss Pamela as he did with Brigitte. Pamela is a Canadian citizen and she has a modern base of fans across Canada. If he meets with her or he does not meet with her, the Canadian media will not ignore her.
CITIZENS HUNGER STRIKE FOR SEALS - HUNGER STRIKING IN OTTAWA
In Ottawa, Svetlana Fotinov is in her 3rd day of a hunger strike before the Canadian Parliament Buildings.
Svetlana Fotinov before the Canadian Parliament Buildings
HUNGER STRIKING IN JAIL
In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon from Los Angeles is in his 3rd day of a hunger strike inside the jail where he has been sentenced to twenty-two days for approaching within a half of a nautical mile of where a sealer was killing a seal.
Twenty-two days for witnessing the cruel and brutal slaughter of a seal pup. Not only was Dr. Vlasak charged with this, he was attacked by sealers on the ice, struck with a sealing club, and his face bloodied. The Mounties refused to lay charges against his assailants.
SEA SHEPHERD CREW MEMBER LISA SHALOM TO BE SENTENCED ON APRIL 3rd FOR FILMING SEAL SLAUGHTER
Canadian Lisa Shalom from Montreal, who was arrested last March for witnessing a seal being killed, is scheduled to appear in court in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on Monday, April 3rd for sentencing.
Ten of the eleven Sea Shepherd crew have been sentenced to pay $1,000 fines each for approaching sealers engaged in the act of killing seals. The convictions are being appealed. Lisa Shalom was the only Canadian charged and was given a separate sentencing date. There is some speculation that because she is Canadian her sentence could be more severe.
Lisa Shalom is presently in Prince Edward Island representing the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and investigating sealing activities.
HSUS GROUNDED IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Canadian and Newfoundland native Rebecca Aldworth and her crew from the Humane Society of the United States have been grounded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
After having seal guts thrown at them by sealers and after their inflatable boat was rammed by a sealing vessel, Rebecca, five other crew, and a reporter from Reuters were charged with approaching within 10 meters of the sealers who attacked them. The HSUS boat was damaged.
They all had permits to document the slaughter, however, the permits restrict the approach to the sealers to a distance of 10 meters. Alternatively, the sealers are not restricted from approaching the people with the permits. When a sealer approaches a person with a permit, the permit holder is required to withdraw and maintain a 10 meter distance. Therefore, when the sealers came toward and attacked the HSUS crew, the victims in the attack automatically were in violation of the regulations.
Of course, no sealers were charged with assault or damage to property.
The law is one sided in favor of seal killers in Canada.
CANADA IS PLANNING A WEST COAST SEAL HUNT
On March 28th, Captain Paul Watson was interviewed by CBC television for his response to a call for a West Coast Canadian Seal Slaughter.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is making noises about setting a quota of 20,000 seals on the West Coast. There was no indication as to the targeted species - harbour seals or seal lions?
Captain Watson informed CBC that any move towards opening a slaughter of seals on the Pacific coast would be strongly opposed.
CANADIAN BOYCOTT TO ESCALATE
Friends of Animals in the United States has called for a boycott of tourism to Canada. Sea Shepherd supports this boycott.
Actor Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams) suggested to Captain Paul Watson that a boycott be organized directed at having non-Canadian production companies boycott Canada for the purpose of making movies and television shows. There is also a movement (led by Morrissey's example) for musicians to boycott Canada and to refrain from touring Canada until the seal slaughter stops.
DEBATE ON SEAL SLAUGHTER IN NEWFOUNDLAND CANCELLED
Captain Paul Watson was scheduled to debate pro-sealers in St. John's Newfoundland on March 31st.
He agreed to attend a screening of the Newfoundland film My Ancestors Were Rogues and Murderers, a National Film Board of Canada production that supports the culture of killing seals in Newfoundland.
The debate had been organized by the CBC and the National Film Board of Canada. Three days before the debate, the event was cancelled when the pro-hunting supporters withdrew.
Ann Troake, the director of the film was one of the people and Premier Danny Williams was invited to the panel. Apparently Ann Troake felt that she would not be able to defend her bloody tradition and backed out.
Danny William, who was unable to debate the issue effectively with Paul and Heather McCartney would not participate.
In the end, the National Film Board of Canada and the CBC were unable to assemble any defenders of the seal hunt willing to debate the controversy with Captain Paul Watson.
Big, brave, club-swinging barbarians on the ice when it comes to bashing in the heads of baby seals but complete cowards when it comes to debating the issue with a seal defender with three decades of experience on the ice floes protecting the seals.
The title of the film - My Ancestor Were Rogues and Murderers - is a very appropriate title indeed about a tradition of bloody exploitation by a culture that drove numerous indigenous species including the indigenous people of Newfoundland to extinction.
The Beothuk people, the now extinct Labrador duck, giant auk, sea mink, Newfoundland wolf, walrus, and much-diminished species of cod, pilot whales, and so many others would agree - Ann Troake's ancestors were in fact rogues and murderers although she appears to be quite proud of this history but then again the family on the cover of the DVD looks pretty inbred.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON:
"Opposition to the horrifically-cruel and ecologically destructive slaughter of over 325,000 seal pups is building. It has become an international movement with a life of its own involving hundreds of organizations, businesses, and thousands of individuals. Canadian Consulates have witnessed demonstrations in dozens of cities worldwide. Every week, another country announces that they will ban seal products. We even had Costco remove seal oil Omega-3 capsules from the shelves of their stores in Newfoundland and Eastern Canada.
We can win this fight for the seals. We have it in our power to shut down and abolish the Canadian commercial seal hunt. We need to work together and we need to keep the pressure on Canada. We need more celebrity input, more restaurants, and retailers to sign onto the seafood boycott. More petitions, more hunger strikers, demonstrators, and letter writers.
We must send a message loud and clear to the Canadian government that this movement is not going away, that Canada is gaining a reputation around the world as a cruel and insensitive nation and for what - to protect a few jobs in an industry that lasts only for a few weeks.
This slaughter is costing Canada more than it makes now, much more. How much more will it cost before these politicians decide that their stubborn pride must give way to the interests of concerned citizens around the world?
The cruel and ecologically destructive slaughter of seals is a national disgrace. It has no place in a civilized world, no place in the 21st Century and no place in a world that strives towards decency and kindness.
This blood-soaked obscenity of cruelty must be ended."
THE LONDON DAILY MIRROR SLAMS THE CANADIAN SEAL SLAUGHTER
OR READ FULL TEXT BELOW:
SEASON OF SLAUGHTER
Pups are clubbed & then skinned alive in front of their mothers... You can hear their bleating as the babies are dragged away
Dennis Ellam and Roland Leon in the Gulf of St Lawrence
BLOOD is spreading across the ice. Obscene scarlet on pure white.
At the stroke of 6am yesterday - right on schedule - Canada's annual slaughter of the seal pups got under way.
It's the biggest and the most barbaric cull anywhere on Earth.
By the time you read this 70,000 pups will have been killed. A total of 325,000 will die - either clubbed to death or shot - within the next three weeks. But it might take just five days.
As dawn broke yesterday the bloodbath began, with men jumping from their fleet of boats, running across the ice, swinging their spiked clubs as they went.
The impassioned pleas of Paul and Heather McCartney and Brigitte Bardot - and worldwide condemnation - count for nothing out here. Thirty-eight years to the day after our sister paper the Daily Mirror's iconic front page revealed the horror of the cull to the nation, nothing has changed.
Just 24 hours earlier, when we flew into this remote wilderness, it was still untouched, a natural nursery for thousands of month-old pups, basking on the ice in the thin sunshine, their proud mothers beside them.
Today, the pups' freshly-skinned carcasses, still steaming from their body heat, litter the ice. Their mothers lie beside them, pining for their dead babies, their mournful bleating carried in the cold air.
Nothing prepares you for such a sickening spectacle.
They call it a hunt, of course, to make it sound like a noble challenge between man and beast. But a harp seal can't run like a fox, it has nowhere to hide like a deer in a forest, it can't fight back like a grizzly. It just lies there, helplessly waiting to be slaughtered.
It's only three weeks since the McCartneys came here, to make their emotional and - out here - controversial plea for the slaughter to be abandoned.
Canada's response? It promptly increased the quota hunters are allowed to kill by another 5,000. "When so-called celebrities come across here making their pronouncements - wealthy people telling folks how they should earn their living - well, we're outraged," government official Phil Jenkins, told me. "We don't feel we need to justify the hunt to anyone."
I paid £12 my "observer's" permit allowing me to watch the slaughter. The "hunters" have paid just £2.50 each for their licences to kill. A top hunter will bag around 1,000 pups a week - and earn over £3,000.
This year, the Canadian government has decreed, 325,000 seal pups can be culled on their journey out of the St Lawrence, from the breeding ground where they were born to the open sea.
Most will die before they have even taken their first swim.
There is simply no logic in the old argument that seals have to be culled to keep their population down and protect fish stocks. Nature has its own ways.
The waters in the Gulf are warming, the ice is thinner than it has ever been in living memory.
For hundreds of square miles it is broken and cracked like a vast crazy paving. Amazingly, our helicopter pilot managed to put down photographer Roland Leon and Myself on a pan of ice that was barely any bigger than the chopper, while the floe pitched and rolled all around us in a raging gale.
In these treacherous conditions, countless new-born seals, would have I fallen into the sea and ' drowned anyway.
In fact, as the Canadian government now admit, the impetus for the hunt is commercial. It makes money.
Yesterday I watched in horror as the hunters swarmed on to the ice with knives dangling from their belts and their traditional "hakapik" clubs slung over their shoulders.
The hakapik is a multipurpose killing tool - a heavy wooden club, with a hammer head on one side to crush a seal pup's skull, and on the other a hook to drag away the carcass to be skinned.
THE first two days of the hunt are always the busiest, I am told. There must be 50 men swarming over the ice - and thousands of pups waiting to be slaughtered. So many to kill, so little time.
The hunters are supposed to club them three times over the head, then touch their eyeball to make sure they are dead before being skinned.
A moment ago one baby seal was a living creature, looking up towards its executioner, fear etched on its face. Its last gesture is to open its mouth wide. A silent cry for mercy.
Now it's a battered heap, waiting for the skinners who follow the hunters. Blood runs from its wounds and its mouth.
The force of the blows has forced its eyes from its sockets. I turn away only to catch out of the corner of my eye the sudden movement of a bloody shape.
A seasoned hunter will you tell this is just a death spasm. Some vets, however, think differently.
According to one report, as many as 40 per cent of seal pups could still be alive when they are skinned.
This one is wriggling and writhing in agony, as it is dragged along, leaving a crimson trail. The hunters lift it, still thrashing, aboard their boat to skin out of sight of our camera.
Earlier I met Robbie Marsland in the offices of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
HE showed me a collection of seal products - tins of seal meat, hats and gloves made from seal fur, even a seal's penis, a delicacy in the Far East where they powder it down and drink it with wine as an aphrodisiac.
Discreetly, the Canadians are now hoping to push seal oil onto the market too, in Omega 3 capsules.
But the main prize is the skin. This year's price is around £30 a pelt, boosted by a sudden demand from the big fashion houses.
Last season, for example, you could have bought a Gucci sealskin coat.
That's why the hunters prefer to club the pups' skulls rather than shoot them and risk hitting the hide. Nothing ruins a £1,000 Gucci coat more than an unsightly bullet-hole.
In the isolated fishing communities around Newfoundland and Labrador, they will tell you that the seal hunt is vital to their way of life, and has been for generations.
"A man has to feed his family, that's the stark truth out here," says Mark Small, 59, a hunter for more than 40 years, like his father and his grandfather before him. "A guy can earn 6,000 dollars in a week. That's one quarter of his annual income. How do you take that away?
"The world thinks we're barbarians, but we're not. Our ancestors settled here to work the oceans, and we have respect for the animals that live here. Seals too. But what do you do with pests in other countries? You get rid of them.
"We don't need you folks to tell us how to run our lives."
HOW YOU CAN STOP THIS SLAUGHTER
Sir Paul McCartney and wife Heather issued the following statement through the Sunday Mirror: "We are devastated to learn that 325,000 of these harp seals - almost all of them defenceless babies - will be clubbed and shot to death. Compassionate people from all around the world are opposed to this seal hunt, including the majority of Canadians, and we urge them to contact their Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and ask him to ban the hunt.
"We chose to come out to the ice floes before the hunt began because it would break our hearts to have to see the cruelty of the hunt.
"But we are absolutely committed to making sure this is the last slaughter of baby seals in Canada anyone will ever have to witness. An important strategy to ending the hunt is closing down the global markets for seal products. Countries such as Greenland, Mexico, and Italy have taken steps to ban the import of sealskins
"When countries stop buying sealskins, there will be no reason for sealers to kill the seals. We are asking every single country to please, please stop buying seal products so this hunt will stop. We're proposing a fair solution to all of this - a sealing licence buy-back plan.
"This is a win-win solution: fishermen would be compensated for any lost revenue when the hunt is closed, and Canada would have a graceful way to put an end to a cruel and needless practice that should have been stopped many years ago."
• Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the power to stop the hunt
Let him know he needs to do his job to protect our oceans!
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Constituency Tel (for Canadians): 613-992-4211
E-mail: [email protected]
Click here to learn more about what you can do to help save the seals!