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April 10, 2010

Seal Hunt 2010: Eyes Wide Open

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

Humane Society International

  • Defenseless seal pups are clubbed on ice floes. Gray Mitchell/HSI

  • Sealers hooking a seal pup from a boat. Gray Mitchell/HSI

  • A bleeding pup looks up and cries out. Gray Mitchell/HSI

  • Blood-slicked sealing vessel. Gray Mitchell/HSI

By Rebecca Aldworth

I am searching for words to describe what I have seen this afternoon. Every time I close my eyes, the blood-slicked carcasses of the dead seals are there. The bloodied bodies of seals hurling through the air, tossed like garbage onto the sealing vessels. The anguished face of a shot seal, screaming in pain. 

There is so much blood. It saturates the ice, slicks across the water, covers the decks of the boats and the sealers. There is death in all directions. 

Today we saw so many examples of it. A seal was shot across the back: the bullet created a huge bloody wound, but the seal was still conscious. Another bullet slammed across the ice, and another. Four shots later, and the seal pup was still conscious, bloody and in pain. For several minutes we filmed from our helicopter, waiting for the sealers to come. They left him to suffer for what seemed like an eternity before finally arriving to club the seal. Without bothering to find out if the seal was unconscious, the sealer took a knife and sliced the pup open from end to end. Another seal looked up just as a club smashed into her skull. Still another began to thrash about in a pile of dead bodies on the boat. It took several minutes for a sealer to notice and halfheartedly club her.

Even if we had not been so far away, we are prevented by Canadian law from helping these suffering creatures. All we are permitted to do is watch and document every atrocity.

You might think that after seeing countless seals brutalized at the commercial seal hunt, this would all get easier. But, it doesn’t.

When you watch this kind of casual violence day after day, year after year, it has a cumulative effect. For some people, the anger turns to despair. They burn out, unable to continue the fight.

For me, it is different. Each death I see is as hard to witness as the first one I saw twelve years ago. But the anger I feel is like a fuel: It builds and builds, giving me the strength to wage our campaign throughout the year to shut this industry down forever.

This year, I will fight harder than ever for these seals. I will not stop until the slaughter is stopped. We are battling a ruthless industry and political opportunists in my government who care nothing for truth, decency, or basic compassion.

The ice floes off Canada’s east coast are a place of death right now. But just as the seals are dying, so too is the sealing industry. Every club the sealers bring down on a stricken baby seal, every bullet that tears into a defenseless pup—each one is a deathblow to the future of the slaughter.

Please join me in being a witness. Together, we’ll make the sights and sounds of clubs and rifle blasts echo around the world—until the seals are finally safe.

Then 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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