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March 5, 2009

Live from the Ice: A Spectacular Nursery

Weeks before the seal hunt is to start, the ice is abundant with baby harp seals

The Humane Society of the United States

by Rebecca Aldworth

Days ago, I stood on the ice floes in the stunning harp seal nursery—one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet. The newborn seals and their mothers lay peacefully, surrounded by the shimmering blue and gold hues of the icy landscape. For hours, we enjoyed the innocence of the pups, the clean air and the beauty of the scene. For me, this is the best place on Earth.

This is my eleventh year bearing witness to this amazing event. It is horrible to know that I may have to return weeks from now to find this beautiful nursery destroyed, turned into an open-air slaughterhouse.

There are few words that can adequately convey the horror of what is to come. As beautiful as the harp seal nursery is, the pending slaughter is ugly. The contrast is shocking, with the once pristine white ice floes soon awash in blood and carcasses.

But there is hope on the horizon. If the European Union takes action to stop its trade in seal products, many of the pups I saw today could be allowed to live their lives in peace. There are just weeks to go before the plenary votes on the proposed prohibition. And while this week's vote in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee of the European Parliament overwhelmingly supported a strong ban, there is still a long way to go.

Canada's commercial seal hunt is set to begin at the end of March. A strong ban in the EU would convince many sealers to stay at home and save countless baby seals from a horrible fate. One vote can make such a critical difference to these defenseless animals. This spring in plenary, we are asking Members of the European Parliament to please vote for the seals.

Rebecca Aldworth is Director of Humane Society International Canada (HSI 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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