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April 13, 2010

Seal Hunt 2010: Closing Time

A "Live from the Ice" dispatch from Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International/Canada

Humane Society International


The 2010 commercial seal slaughter is slowly winding down. Spring is marching on and, with the warming temperatures, the harp seal nursery is literally melting away. The sealers have killed almost all of the pups in the areas we observed. What remains are shrinking ice pans covered in crimson blood.

In the coming weeks, the harp seals who have survived the commercial seal hunt and the record-low ice cover this year begin their slow migration back to Greenland. The ProtectSeals team is leaving too, for we have gathered more than enough evidence to help shut down this slaughter for good. Our work to save the seals from the 2011 seal hunt begins here.

We are in a race against time. Just eleven months from now, next year's seal pups will face another brutal slaughter—unless we stop it first.

Today, we take our images from the 2010 seal hunt and send them around the world. The baby seal who was shot in the face and suffered horribly did not die in vain. Her death will be remembered, in the halls of the European Parliament and beyond. The seal pup who crawled in agony through his own blood will motivate nations to ban seal products and seafood distributors to avoid Canadian seafood. In the end, the blows struck against the baby seals this year will be like a boomerang, crushing the industry that motivated them.

What we documented this year at the seal slaughter has been horrific.  In the 12 years I have born witness to Canada's commercial seal kill, I have rarely seen such cruelty and suffering. The Canadian government's claims of a humane slaughter will be exposed for the cynical propaganda they are in the face of our video evidence.

There is no worse time in my life than the days I spend observing this slaughter. For most people, the approach of spring means happiness and renewal, but for me, it is a time of dread and misery. Each moment that brings me closer to the opening day of the seal hunt is progressively worse, until that awful day arrives. It takes every ounce of strength that I have to bear witness to this massacre.

But as I leave the sealing grounds, I do, somehow, feel a sense of renewal.  Another chance to change the fate of these seals, to work together with the best people in the world to shut down the worst slaughter.

We hold the fate of the seals in our hands. And never have we been so close to ending this killing for good. The sealing industry today is a shadow of its former self. This year, less than 30 sealing vessels hailed out in an area where nearly 1,000 usually operate. Tens of thousands of seals have died, but hundreds of thousands will live through the slaughter this year. Our campaign to close global markets for seal products has caused prices for seal fur to crash, and most sealers cannot find buyers at all this year.

Our boycott of Canadian seafood has achieved the support of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of individuals. Best of all, a recent poll shows half of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion are willing to consider a federal buyout of the sealing industry that would compensate them for lost revenue and develop economic alternatives.

The end is in sight, but we need to give everything we have to this campaign to save the baby seals in the coming year. With you on our side, I know we can end it. We can restore peace to Canada's ice floes.  

Please support the end of the seal hunt in Canada: donate to save seals, or sign the pledge to boycott seafood from Canada»

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. For the past decade, she has been a firsthand observer of Canada's commercial seal hunt, escorting more than 100 scientists, parliamentarians and journalists to the ice floes to witness the slaughter.

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