February 24, 2011
A Thirteenth Year Observing Slaughter
This year marks the thirteenth that I have observed commercial sealing in Canada, and it never gets any easier. On Hay Island, off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, it is the hardest of all. Here, mother seals and their newborns are in close proximity to the slightly older pups who are the targets of this slaughter. Until the sealers arrive, it is a paradise of nursing infants and young seals playing in the snow.
When the bloodshed begins, those who are slaughtered are killed in horrific ways, in clear sight of those who are too young for the sealers to legally take.
What is left of this former paradise is the blood, stretched in lines across the snowy landscape. The carcasses, lined up by sealers to be winched onto their boat, staring sightlessly towards the sky. And the few survivors, the red blood of their former friends staining their white fur. One of the most beautiful places on earth has once again become one of the ugliest.
But even as I write these discouraging words, I know that a change is coming.
In 2008, sealers killed more than 1,000 pups on Hay Island. Two years ago, 200. Today, half of that. Our campaign is working.
Markets for seal products are closing around the world, and the prices for seal products remain very low. Already, half of sealers in Newfoundland with an opinion support a federal sealing industry buyout to compensate fishermen for lost income as the seal hunt ends, and invest funds in economic alternatives in the communities most involved.
In my thirteenth year of observing this cruel slaughter, I am more determined than ever that Canada will move beyond commercial sealing.
Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada (HSI Canada).