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April 9, 2013

Canada's Barbaric Seal Slaughter

Live from the Ice

  • The first day of the seal slaughter was killing as usual, even though Canada had not yet released a quota. Frank Loftus/HSUS

Canada's 2013 slaughter of baby seals began early April 9. HSI's Rebecca Aldworth is there to bear witness to the bloodshed, and this is her latest report from the ice.

by Rebecca Aldworth

Today, half an hour before dawn, the commercial seal slaughter opened off the coast of Newfoundland, and the Protect Seals team is here to expose the cruelty.

As we fly over the harp seal nursery, we are seeing the worst sea ice conditions I have ever witnessed here. Where there should be solid sea ice there is just open water and tiny, broken ice pans. But the slaughter goes on, with the sealers shooting every seal pup they find.

This is my 15th year in a row witnessing this killing, and it never gets any easier. Despite what the Canadian government would have the world believe, baby seals continue to suffer horribly.

Final moments

Below me, a fat, sleepy seal pup lies peacefully on an ice floe. He is beautiful and his silver-grey fur gleams in the sun. If the seal hunt had not started, it would be a beautiful sight. But there are sealing boats all around him, and this seal doesn’t stand a chance.

Sensing danger, he raises his head and begins to crawl toward the edge of the ice. But he is just weeks old — he doesn’t know yet how to swim properly and so he stays on the ice. Suddenly, a gunshot blasts and he is shot in the face. For just a moment, he lies still but then he raises his bloody head and cries out again and again. From 1,000 feet in the air, we can see his agony clearly. And we share it, knowing there is nothing we can do to help him.

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Meters away, another pup is shot and wounded. Terrified and in pain, she bravely dives into the water, leaving a slick trail of blood behind her. There, she will likely succumb to a slow death, and her body will never be retrieved.

We fly on, and see another pup, shot and crawling around the ice in her own blood. The sealers don’t shoot her again, and she suffers until they maneuver their boat into position and beat her to death on the ice.

Bearing witness to pain

It is so important we are here. This year, we are the only ones out here filming.

We see no enforcement people, no Canadian government officials, no other NGOs. It is just us. Our helicopter and our cameras are the only defense these seals have, the only way to show the world what is happening so that we can bring it to an end.

Your support keeps our helicopter in the air and our cameras rolling and for that, I cannot thank you enough. The evidence we gather is the foundation of our campaign to stop this atrocity. It will help the European Union defend its ban on commercial seal product trade at the World Trade Organization and convince more nations to follow the EU example.

Seals are dying again this year, and, as in previous years, the sealers take their lives without thought and with too much cruelty. But so many more will be spared, because of your support for our campaign, which has closed markets for pelts throughout the world. Please stay with us as we continue to bear witness to Canada’s commercial seal slaughter and work around the world to stop the killing for good.

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of HSI/Canada.