Haunted by Images of Seal Slaughter

by Rebecca Aldworth

The 2011 seal slaughter is slowly coming to a close.

The ice floes around Newfoundland have melted entirely, and the seals are moving north in their annual migration. Soon, they will be beyond the reach of Canada’s sealers.

Our images remain

The vast ocean hides what happened here. The blood-covered ice pans are gone, and the carcasses of the baby seals have sunk beneath the waves.

If we had not filmed what happened here, no one would ever know the suffering that the baby seals endured.

Please help us show the world the barbarism of the commercial seal slaughter.

Your support allowed us to bear witness to the cruelty and expose it to the world. And now, our work to document the killing has ended, because we have gathered more than enough evidence to show why this slaughter must be stopped forever.

We are in a race against time. In just months, mother seals will begin their long trip back to Canada to give birth to their pups on the ice floes. When they do, Canada’s fishermen will gear up for yet another slaughter. Unless we stop them first.

Memories of horror

In the 13 years I have observed Canada’s bloody slaughter of baby seals at close range, this year’s killing was the hardest to bear witness to. The baby seals were so young that some were still mostly covered in white fur. Too many were shot in the back, the neck, the jaw—in agony and clearly conscious as the sealers bore down on them with clubs or, worse, impaled them on metal hooks and dragged them onto boats.

The image of a baby seal looking up and crying out from the pile of bloody carcasses onto which he’d been thrown, just days ago, will haunt me forever. I cannot begin to comprehend the terror and misery that this bewildered, weeks-old pup must have felt on the blood-slicked deck of that sealing boat. But he appears in my nightmares and in my mind throughout the day, urging me on to stop this brutality for good. His suffering is with me now, and I carry it into every forum where we fight for the lives of these defenseless creatures.

The fight goes on

The suffering of these baby seals will not be in vain. We will bring the footage of what happened to China and Russia and urge these nations to ban their trade in seal products. We’ll show it to restaurants, grocery stores, and chefs throughout the United States and Europe, and ask them to boycott Canadian seafood until the slaughter is ended forever. We’ll send it to every Canadian parliamentarian, to show them firsthand what their policies have facilitated.

This year, we have an opportunity to end this slaughter, and end it for good.

Weeks ago, the Canadian government set the highest seal quota in history, authorizing sealers to kill more than 468,000 harp, hooded, and grey seals for their fur. But sealers will not kill anywhere near that number. Because the United States and European Union have banned their trade in seal products, prices for seal fur in Canada remain very low, and Canadian fishermen have little economic incentive to kill the seals.

To date, barely more then 30,000 seals have died at the hands of sealers this year—less than one tenth of what the kill could have been by now. With fewer than ten small boats now participating in the seal hunt, local media is rightfully asking if the slaughter may be over for good.

But as tempting as it is to take comfort in the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of baby seals will survive the killing this year, we must be more vigilant than ever. We must not stop, not for a second, until Canada joins the United States in prohibiting commercial hunting of seals forever.

With you on our side, I know we can achieve that goal.With your continuing support, we can change history, and ensure that what we witnessed this year never happens again. Thank you for standing with Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States in our work to save the seals.

Together, we are closer than ever to restoring peace to Canada’s ice floes. Please help us continue this vital work.

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada.

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