VIDEO: Seals Suffering and Canadian Law Enforcement is Nowhere in Sight

A seal in the sights of a hunter off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
A seal in the sights of a hunter off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare seal team is on the East Coast of Canada to document the opening of the 2011 commercial seal hunt in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador.  Some of the worst ice conditions on record mean that there is little ice habitat and few seal pups in the area.

With the lack of demand for seal products, and pelt prices hovering around $20, the economic benefit from seal hunting is virtually nonexistent. But with a total allowable catch of 400,000 seal pups for this year, and with rumours that two Newfoundland seal processors have agreed to purchase 80,000 skins, we were concerned that some boats would still go out to hunt. So IFAW is here to film them.

We found the Coast Guard Henry Larsen, which is apparently the icebreaker dedicated to seal hunt enforcement. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near the seal hunt. We kept searching for the 27 boats that we were told had hailed out that morning.

Eventually we came upon four vessels that were actively hunting. They were shooting at seal pups on small pans of ice, and either reaching overboard to hook them with a long boat hook or hopping onto the ice to club them with a hakapik before bringing them in.

Noticing our presence above them, one boat went as far as to unroll a large tarpaulin to cover up the contents of their skiff and completely conceal what was happening on the boat deck below us.  In my 10 years of observing the seal hunt, I’d never seen such a bizarre action. What could they possibly be trying to hide?

We saw seal pups killed and left -- pelt, carcass and all -- on the ice. This is a clear violation of the Marine Mammal Regulations 33.1 which says: Every person who fishes for seals for personal or commercial use shall land the pelt or the carcass of the seal.

Why? Because seal processors have made it clear this year that they will not purchase “ragged jackets” or partially moulted pups.  So here the sealers were, wantonly killing ragged jackets and leaving them for the gulls to peck at.  Although I didn’t realize at the time, a seal hunter was quoted saying that this, in fact, was what the seal hunt now came down to, stating that, “You're only just going at it for the sport and try to kill off some of the seals, that's around, to get rid of some."

We continued along, filming the Irish Connection, a larger boat that was working with a skiff behind it. The gunman on the larger vessel shot multiple animals, and the skiff went along behind, picking up seals and slicing them open. I made a note in my logbook that the “hakapik” being used did not appear to meet the requirements as set forth in the Marine Mammal Regulations, and that sealer was not doing any skull palpation (a required test for unconsciousness) before gaffing or slicing the seals open.

The skiff had about 4 bodies in the bottom of the boat and so we set about filming its activities.

What I saw on my monitor made me catch my breath.

A small paw reached up from the bottom of the boat, waving desperately.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Coordinated movements of the front flippers usually indicate a conscious, voluntary movement.  It is one of the things we look for to distinguish a serious animal welfare issue from the horizontal “swim reflex” that often occurs when seals are killed.

I peered closer at the screen, hoping that my eyes had deceived me. Maybe I had imagined it? Maybe it was the movement of the boat jostling in the waves.

Several minutes later the small paw reached up again, waving and clenching in pain. There was no way this could be any “reflex”.  And since no skull palpation had been conducted, I realized that this seal was likely still very much alive, buried under a pile of bloody seal bodies.

I thought angrily of the lack of enforcement and monitoring presence in the area. Why wasn’t the Department of Fisheries and Oceans doing their job?   I reminded myself that if it were not for IFAW’s presence here, this suffering would go completely unnoticed.

This is why IFAW documents the seal hunt every year, even though it requires a fairly significant investment of our much-needed resources.

This is why the government of Canada needs to wake up and stop supporting and defending this cruel, unnecessary, and economically nonviable activity.

This is why Canada’s commercial seal hunt needs to stop – and it needs to stop now.

-- SF

For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to end the Canadian commercial seal hunt visit http://www.ifaw.org/seals

Comments: 26

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I do have a heart and soul and am Canadian. Like Paul I found out about this because I signed up for Care 2 petitions site and they brought it to my attention. I own and on line business and went onto my blog and sent out a plea to my followers to go and sign the petition against these horrific acts. In this day and age of plastic everything why on earth would anyone want to do such things. Perhaps for the same reasons that the Costa Ricans go out onto the beaches when the sea turtles are laying their eggs to harvest them right out from underneath them to sell no doubt on black markets. There are stupid people EVERYWHERE Ren! At least Fink, degree or not, goes out of her way to bring these acts, legal or not, to everyone's attention. Do you social network Ren? Go and post and tweet to your hearts content and tell them to raise their voices. If you don't well then that is something you could be doing. That one small thing. Telling people here to do that is useless, we all know already.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I'm a Canadian, and your statement is unfair. You should know how many Canadians are aware of this issue before you start hating or looking down on us. I'm sure most of the population is not aware. Who is filming this stuff besides IFAW? IFAW is how I found out about this. Please be fair, not quick to judge. I definitely don't agree with unnecessary, painful or abusive slaughter of ANY animal, and I'm doing what I can to stop this. What can I do other than write letters, sign petitions and donate? CNN reported on the North American Union, and I've seen a small group of Canadians speaking out against it. So, I believe we will speak out for seals too, if enough people raise awareness about the problem.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Thank -you for showing the world about this seal slaughter I know I could never go over there video tape this, this is heart breaking, and these fishermen have no hearts no feelings, but pure evil. I have faith that this will end soon. and I know this is hard for u to video tape this i feel for u. I love seals their just so cute and all animals. and I`m doing what ever I can to help

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Do you know in psychitry books it says that if a human is willing to harm another species and gets pleasure out of it, the psychotic tendencies to do the same thing to a human are the same. The seals feel pain, fear, anguish and helplessness when they see one of you coming at them with a hakapik or a low caliber gun.
I have read the denials from sealers stating that they don't use the hakapik anymore and they don't shoot them from the boat because its too inaccurate, but yet its been filmed dozens of times. So what are you going to use for an excuse next, the seals just keel over and die at the sight of you? You aren't a marine biologist, you don't know what the seals are going through. What if these hunters did this to you and your kids, I'd bet you get upset then. I'd bet you tell me its not the same thing? A chicken getting its head cut off is one thing but a seal getting shot and hooked in the face and then dragged aboard is something different.
I have seen how men treat the species on farms, its one of the many reasons I became vegan. The other reason was how ugly people get towards another species they deem a pest or a competition to a food source. You know seal hunters tried to play god over seals decades ago because they were seen as competition to the planet's cod ( notice I said planet and not your). You put them on the endangered list along with the cod. The government even had to put limits on you guys back then. and you still haven't learned anything. When you over hunt, over fish, populations decrease for years. they don't magically come back over one season. Th ocean isn't limitless. it isn't sustainable, not with the human population at 6,900,000,000 and climbing everyday. I know that people get frustrated when the 'job' they got trained in since childhood is now becoming obsolete due their own greed and ignorance at how the ecosystem of the ocean works. I'm frustrated that people who continue to take and take and take out of the ocean, and put pollution back in don't seem to connect the dots. The oceans are becoming sespools and the inhabitants of the oceans are living, breathing and eating it. So everything you pull out of the oceans to eat are about as safe a chicken with bird flu or a cow with mad cow.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I feel exactly the way you do Jill. I hesitated to open up this email because I knew my heart would hurt at seeing these innocent seal pups being murdered for no reason.
Do Canadians have no heart,no soul, no feelings--are they truly truly horrible human beings. Let me tell you--this makes me think very little of Canadians right about now. Have some backbone and retaliate against this horrific act upon animals who have no voice of their own. We need to fight for them.

IFAW, thank you for all you do--- and yes, everyone WHO READS THIS, DO SOMETHING TO BRIN G THIS VIOLENT ACT TO AN END. Thanks

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

this is for Bill. I am a Canadian. I was born and raised in this so called beautiful country. I am sick and tired of these animals being killed. This so called government is wasting taxpayers' money for nothing.Instead they should be providing some other type of employment for these people. Times have changed including our enviroment. Nothing is the same as it used to be. So give up this horrible and futile way of living. At one time I was proud of being a Canadian not any more

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

????~???????????????????

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Absolutely agree...would actually like to see the entire video...since I know for a fact that there were parts conveniently "edited" out.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Regardless of whether a man is murdering a seal pup or a pig, the question remains of how could anyone do this? How could a man 'go to work' (I use the term loosely) to murder innocent seal pups on the ice? How is this a job? How is this acceptable? How can the Canadian people consider what happens, year in year out, acceptable? It isn't a question of judging a culture, it's a matter of judging decent behaviour and, by anyone's standards, this isn't it!

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

@ SuBi, I think that all the facts are there and my own morals tell me that this is sick, obscene cruelty and I really don't think that using the Inuiets as some sort of ace card to dampen opinion is quite right as after all that is their culture and their means of feeding themselves and they never kill more than they need - somewhat different to slaughter just for so called fashion. What excuse have they nowadays as even the pelts are not selling so it is just mindless slaughter by the few and @ Izzy how would you like to be bashed and then slit open when alive. SuBi you mention slaughter by butchers or farmers, I don't know what culture you are from but here in the UK all animals are humanely slaughtered and these comments are from a vegetarian.

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