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March 11, 2013

A Response to Pro-Sealing Propaganda

Desperate times

Seal pup closeup

Mark Glover/HSI

by Dr. John Grandy 

There is desperation swirling in the Northern air. World opinion has turned evermore strongly against the Canadian government and its state-sanctioned slaughter of young seals to supply the fur trade.

In response, apologists for this cruel carnage have grown shriller, even ridiculous.

There is nothing, not a single thing, they can say in defense of this blood-stained, outdated practice. So they've fallen back on the clumsy, last-ditch tactics of propagandists. They're trying to discredit those who take the side of helpless young seals against those who would club them over the head for a few dollars in greedy profit.

It won't work.

Canada: The world won't be fooled.

Like sealing itself, this disinformation is nasty business. But in the end, it only proves what we've been saying all along: The sealing industry apologists simply don't care—not about animals, not about the price in blood, not about damage to Canada's reputation, not even about the mounting toll on Canada's economy as consumers in the United States and elsewhere turn their backs on the nation's seafood industry.

For years, The Humane Society of the United States has been leading the campaign to end this brutality and bring Canada into the modern era. The sight of grown men lunging across the Atlantic ice floes to club and shoot baby seals to death so they can be stripped of their skins is simply not acceptable anymore. So, naturally, we're the front-line target for sealing industry apologists.

Their tactics are those of the garden-variety demagogue. Make up an outrageous lie, and see if you can force your foe onto the defensive.

That won't work with us, thanks. But we can explore the tactic. It provides yet another lesson, in case one is needed, about the kind of people who try and argue that clubbing an immature seal in the head is a "humane" form of animal hunting. Yes, that's exactly what they'd have you believe.

I can tell you about it first hand.

Each year, I go out on the ice with a team from The HSUS. We find ourselves in a scene of startling beauty. Vast, surreal horizons of white dazzle the eyes. The emergence of a new generation of seals sends the heart soaring. Then comes the awful sight of men on the march, their clubs arcing through the sky and that awful sound—the sick, wet crunching sound of skulls being crushed. It will haunt me all my life.

So why do I go out there? Why do we go? To make sure the world doesn't forget the annual agonies of these seals. They have no chance of escape. Calling this a "hunt" is to debase the word. This is a massacre.

Trying to turn the spotlight away from this brutality, apologists have attempted to question our motives. They would ask people to believe that we are using the slaughter of seals as a fundraising tool. What a callous and ugly thing to say—but of course these are people who are masters of both. What else would you expect?

We're on the ice to try and save seals. They are on the ice to kill them. There are no qualifiers on these statements.

That's the way it is, and the way it has been from the beginning: They kill seals to sell the fur. We work to make sure the world knows and voices its righteous objection.

If you want nightmares tonight, close your eyes and imagine the wet "thwack" sound of a club splitting the skull of a young seal on the ice off Newfoundland. Think of the man with the club so caught up in his orgy of killing that he leaves this animal to suffer convulsions and a drawn-out death. That's my nightmare. Think of the Canadian politicians and commentators who defend this practice as "humane" and "well regulated." That's my nightmare, too.

The plea of The HSUS and its Canadian supporters is plain enough: Each spring, hundreds of thousands of helpless seals are killed, and many are made to endure agonizing, drawn out deaths. The world recoils in horror. We want it stopped. The European Union has banned their trade in seal products. American businesses and consumers want it stopped. They are boycotting Canadian snow crab and other seafood products until the seal hunt ends. Most Canadians want it stopped, and they are demanding their tax dollars no longer be used to promote the sealing industry. Even sealers are open to moving beyond commercial sealing: a 2010 poll of Newfoundland sealers revealed that half of them with an opinion support a federal sealing industry buyout, a plan in which sealers would be compensated as the seal hunt is ended and funds invested in economic alternatives.

The propagandists may wish it were otherwise, but when the sealers take to the ice, we'll follow. They have their eyes on the prize. And, with the help of millions of supporters on this continent and elsewhere, so do we.

John Grandy, Ph.D., is The HSUS' senior vice president for Wildlife and Habitat Protection.

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