IFAW’s Sheryl Fink responds to disturbing Facebook video showing abuse of baby seal pup

A harp seal pup rests on the ice in Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. IFAW works to protect seals from cruelty and stop the commercial seal hunt in Canada.Canadian officials have laid charges to three fishermen after being alerted to a disturbing video posted on social media last week showing the fishermen abusing a baby seal.   The video has been removed from Facebook, but can still be found on the website of the CBC.

It shows what appears to be a thin, whitecoat seal pup – likely only a few days old - being taunted and poked with a fishing buoy, then kicked in the head while the fishermen laugh in the background.

"Bark, b*tch, bark," commands one man as the terrified pup recoils, looking desperately for a safe space to hide on the deck of the fishing vessel.  

“Here seal!”  “Speak boy!”  they jeer, as the frightened pup mouths helplessly at the fishing buoy being repeatedly shoved in its face.

Then laughter, as a voice says “Okay let’s kill it!”

“Get a big machete - that’ll do a number on its head” calls out another voice off-camera.

Fisheries officials said the seal was eventually killed, although it is not shown in the video.  A photo shows a man cradling the pup in his arms, its face smeared with blood.

Thankfully, concerned community members reported the video to authorities. Local activist Caitlin Buchanan plans to keep pressure on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by launching an online action and holding a rally outside the office of fisheries officials. A petition has been started, calling for the fishermen involved to have their licenses revoked. Coldwater Lobster Association has also spoken out against the cruelty on behalf of area fishermen, saying “It doesn't reflect in any way the behaviour of the fishermen that ply their trade in this area.”

Seals are sentient mammals who can suffer and experience pain and fear. The pup in the video is a very young grey seal, likely no more than a few days old. It is clearly terrified and completely unable to defend itself.  

It is illegal to kill whitecoated pups, such as the one that appears in the video. However, as soon as they have shed their white pelts in a few weeks, these seals will be the target of Canada’s commercial seal hunt. It is expected the Canadian government will allow 60,000 grey seals to be killed this year.

Unfortunately, such abuse and disregard for life is not unheard of during the Canadian seal hunt.  Footage taken by IFAW at the 2011 commercial harp seal hunt shows seal pups being picked up and thrown on the ice, and sliced open and left to suffer in the bottom of a boat while still alive and conscious.

Please let the Canadian government know animal abuse cannot be tolerated! You can also Learn more to help IFAW protect seals from cruelty and stop the commercial seal hunt in Canada.

--SF

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations