April 15, 2011
Obscene Torment of Baby Seals
by Rebecca Aldworth
The sealing boats move through the harp seal nursery, cutting paths through the fragile ice pans. Blood spills off their decks, turning the ocean red.
The baby seals here sense danger as the churning water shifts the ice and roaring engines signal the approach of the vessels.
Some try to crawl away. Others stare hopelessly into the water they are not yet strong enough to swim in. One bravely tries to slide into the water, but she can't swim. She miserably crawls back out onto the ice, to her death.
These babies are so young. Many still have much of their white fur; they are all less than a month old.
The sealers are killing at a frantic pace. They shoot from their boats at the helpless and terrified pups. Sometimes they hit the baby seal in the neck instead of the skull. Sometimes they miss entirely. Always, the relentless gaff—a long wooden pole with a sharp metal hook on the end—is pushed over the side of the boat to retrieve the wounded seals.
Time after time, I watch in disgust as the sealers fail to get off the boats, onto ice pans that could easily support their weight, to test each animal for unconsciousness as they are supposed to. Instead, they impale the seals through the jaw on the gaff hook, drag them across the ice, and hoist them onto the boat. There, they are tossed like garbage onto the bloodied bodies of other baby seals and clubbed to death.
One baby seal ahead of us is shot. His tail begins to thrash wildly because he is still conscious and in pain. He opens his mouth, lifts his head, and cries in agony. But the sealers show no mercy, and the gaff comes. He is impaled, screaming, and is dragged across the ice and hoisted onto the boat, his skin tearing on the metal hook.
The sealer tosses him onto a pile of bloody carcasses—the boat deck is awash in gore. And then, horribly, I see him lift his head from the bloody mess and cry again. I can't begin to imagine the terror and agony this three-week-old baby seal must be enduring.
The sealer drags him to the other side of the boat; again he lifts his head and cries. But there is no compassion on this vessel and the sealer grabs his club and smashes the baby seal's head again and again. He is another casualty of this ruthless slaughter.
I am anxious to leave here—to bring this evidence to the people who can shut this obscenity down. To the government leaders who will ban trade in seal products. To the companies who will boycott Canadian seafood until this abhorrent slaughter ends. To the Canadian parliamentarians who are increasingly considering the possibility of ending this cruelty through a federal sealing industry buyout.
What I see out here motivates me—and all of us—to fight even harder to stop this slaughter before it happens again. That is a fight we need to wage off the ice, and it is one we desperately need your help to win.
Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada (HSI Canada).