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April 11, 2013

Boats in the Fog, Seal Blood in the Water

Humane Society International/Canada

Canada's 2013 slaughter of baby seals began this week. HSI's Rebecca Aldworth is there to bear witness to the bloodshed, and this is her latest report from the ice.

by Rebecca Aldworth

This has been a difficult day. Thick fog kept our helicopter on the ground in the morning, and by the time we reached the coast it was early afternoon. The Canadian government informed us that six sealing vessels had hailed out in the  ocean off Newfoundland.

Flying through the dense fog, it seemed impossible to find the vessels. Suddenly, we saw one in front of us. And horribly, there were seal pups all around it. We immediately began to film but, seeing us, the crew stopped killing the pups.

These are the great moments, when we know our mere presence here is directly saving seals. The vessel moved away from most of the pups  and slowly stopped. For a time, we hovered in the air, hoping to buy more time for the baby seals. But finally, we had to go for fuel. We left, desperately hoping that the baby seals would survive somehow.

As we flew back out to sea, we spotted four more vessels, and this time the crews openly killed pups in view of our cameras.

A sealer clubbed one baby seal again and again. The sealer started to cut her open but she thrashed around until he clubbed her yet again.

Another pup with a gunshot wound kept moving, but the sealers stabbed him with a metal hook and dragged him onto the boat, where they finally clubbed him to death.

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The boats had many seal skins already, and their bloody decks confirmed our worst fears. While the fog kept us away, the sealers were busy killing seals.

Eventually, the weather worsened, and the sealing boats began to head back into port. Following them, we came across a gruesome sight. On shore, a few sealers had lined up the bodies of about 50 baby seals. They were skinning them and tossing the carcasses into the ocean. The beach was awash with the blood of the pups, who died so their skins could be stockpiled in a warehouse.

These are the images I carry with me when I leave this place to renew our efforts to ensure this killing is the last we'll witness.

We're making so much progress—this slaughter is a shadow of what it once was. In the first two days of the 2013 seal hunt, 10,304 seals died. But not so long ago, 140,000 seals were slaughtered in the same time frame. Still, while the sealing industry is down, it is not out, and it could rebuild. And that is why our presence—as well as your support—is crucial.

Thank you for helping us end Canada's cruel seal slaughter.

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of HSI/Canada.

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