Shepherds of the Labrador Front
An Open Letter from Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Farley Mowat
I am sitting in the communications room of our ship the Farley Mowat typing this letter. In only four days, we will be pointing our bow to the northeast and into the North Atlantic, towards one of the most hostile and remote areas of the world - the Labrador Front
We are in the middle of a campaign to confront the world's largest sealing fleet. On April 12th, some 320 vessels will send thousands of sealers onto the ice of the Labrador Front.
They will begin on that morning to slaughter every seal pup in sight. The total quota for this year is 319,000 seals, making this the largest marine mammal massacre in the world.
These seals are not being killed by Inuit or any group of indigenous peoples. This is a systematic commercial slaughter, heavily subsidized by the Canadian government.
My volunteer crew and I have been on this ship continuously since departing Bermuda on February 21st, 2005. Since then we have had two hull breaches requiring emergency underwater repairs and my crew were violently assaulted on the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by angry seal killers. Eleven of my crew were arrested for filming and photographing a sealer on the ice. Our ship narrowly avoided being rammed by a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker and we weathered a hellish storm that locked us into an icy vise-like grip for three days.
But we made a difference - we were able to turn this into an international issue and we were able to publicize the seal slaughter. The campaign in the Gulf was more effective than we had hoped.
And now we must continue. The slaughter in the Gulf has ended and our attention must now turn to the Northeastern coast of Newfoundland and the area known as the Labrador Front. It is a harsher, rougher, colder, and more isolated area. There will be more ships, more sealers, and more hostility, and it is the one area where no seal protection vessel has ever gone before.
On Friday we will depart on one of most dangerous and difficult campaigns ever - the voyage into an area I am calling the Heart of Darkness. I have given it that name because only the darkest of hearts can inflict such horrific suffering and deal such brutal agonizing death to living creatures so young and so defenseless.
These sealers call this a hunt. It is not, and has never been, a hunt. It is a vicious, remorseless, merciless, and willful mass slaughter of innocence.
Next week, these sealers will create a hell on Earth as they club, shoot, kick, and skin tens of thousands of seals. The ice will become a Dantean canvas of heated scarlet eating like a cancer of evil into the cold bluish white ice. Bloodied corpses will be scattered across the ice with vacant gaping eyes whose last sight on Earth will be the image of a human being smashing a club into their young bodies.
To oppose this we must journey northward, our one ship against their 320 vessels and at least three large Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers. We will need to work our way through a hundred miles of ice, and once there, we will have to overcome the problems caused by the government of Canada having made it impossible for us to obtain seal slaughter observation permits.
Canada does not want us to see and document what happens up on those forlorn and lonely ice floes. Canada does not want the world to see more images of brutality and streams of blood trailing across the white and blue panorama of the ice fields. Canada does not want the world to see the killing or to hear the screams of the seals.
We go north to defy censorship and to oppose violent cruelty. We go north to oppose ignorant thuggery and we go north to put ourselves into harm's way and to proclaim as loudly and as vividly as we can that there are people willing to risk life and freedom to stand in defense of the defenseless seal pups.
A reporter asked me today if I was willing to die for a seal. My answer without hesitation is "yes." I cannot think of a more noble cause to lay one's life down than in defense of life on this planet. Each and every one of these seals has as much right to live and experience life as you or I.
When I see them on the ice, I see such promise and such hope and every seal we can save is a seal that will swim free through the seas and will carry on the great culture of what was once the incredible nation of seals, now so much diminished like so much else in our oceans and on the land.
I think that fighting for life, for beauty, for innocence, and for the future is worth the risks. Next week we will be taking those risks as we journey deep into the Heart of Darkness to peer deeply into the dark and conflicting torments that rend the very soul of humanity.
Because we know on which side we stand - we reject the profits of death and embrace the promise of life.
Thank you for standing on our side in our quest to champion life for the seals of the Labrador Front.
Captain Paul Watson