The Canadian Seal Hunt is Dead! Long Live the Seals!
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
"I would like to see the six million seals, or whatever number is out there, killed and sold, or destroyed or burned. I do not care what happens to them. If there was a market for more seals, the commercial sealers would be hunting and killing seals. The ‘personal use' sealers...cannot sell them because the markets are not there. What they want is the right to go out and kill the seals....and the more they kill, the better I will love it."
Mr. John Efford, former Canadian Federal Minister for Natural Resources and the
former Minister of Fisheries for the province of Newfoundland.
I have been fighting the Canadian seal hunt since 1974. It’s been a long, hard road after nearly four decades. During that time I have taken ships into the ice six times, in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1998, 2005, and 2008. I’ve led three helicopter campaigns in 1976, 1977, and 1995. During this time we chased sealing vessels out of the ice, blockaded sealing ships in harbor, walked for miles over treacherous ice conditions, confronted Canadian fisheries officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, debated Senators, Members of Parliament, Newfoundland Premiers, Fisheries Ministers and Prime Ministers. We’ve taken celebrities Brigitte Bardot, Richard Dean Anderson, and Martin Sheen to the ice floes and we have worked to have seal products banned worldwide. We’ve been arrested, beaten by police and by sealers, lost a ship, and we’ve been vilified across Canada as eco-terrorists, extremists, and traitors.
We even devised a cruelty free, non-lethal sealing alternative of brushing the molting fur from the white coats because it has the same properties as eider down. The government rejected our alternative. The government wanted the seals to die.
But in the end we have won!
The Canadian seal slaughter is commercially dead and it will have no place in the 21st Century. This anachronistic, barbaric enterprise is being tossed into the dustbin of history where it belongs. Finally after a lifetime of struggle to end it, this obscene embarrassment is for all intents and purposes – dead.
It was a half a century ago when I was ten years old that I saw a seal clubbed to death on the shores of my native New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was my dream then to put an end to it and that dream has all but come true. Last year in a ridiculous fit of pique, Canadian federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea set the kill quota at 400,000, despite knowing there was no viable market for this cruel and ecologically destructive product. The actual kill was less than 10% of that at 38,000 seal pups.
The sealers may want to kill seals but they are also practical enough to know that it makes little sense to kill them if there is no market for the pelts. Last year the entire industry brought in less than one million dollars and cost the Canadian taxpayers much more in subsidies, public relations, and free icebreaking services to the seal killers. For the last few years the commercial seal slaughter has survived as a glorified welfare system, supported by politicians indulging in all sorts of histrionic stunts to promote it, ranging from serving seal meat in the Parliamentary cafeteria, to the Governor General sinking her teeth into a raw seal heart with blood dripping down her chin.
Thanks to the fact that seal products are banned in the USA, Europe, and Russia, the worldwide market has crashed.
It has been a long, long fight and the credit for this goes to many organizations and individuals who have fought so long and so passionately to achieve this victory for these beautiful creatures: The late Cleveland Amory and the Fund for Animals, Brian Davies and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Rebecca Aldworth and the Humane Society of the United States, Brigitte Bardot and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, PETA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Harp Seals.org, and to the passionate crews who accompanied me to the ice first with Greenpeace in 1976 and 1977 and after that with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
It was a struggle that began in the Sixties and now the commercial slaughter has ended and it will only be a few more years until the kills dwindle down to what the sadistic savages in the Magdalen Islands of Quebec and a few outposts of Newfoundland kill for recreation.
We took on the Canadian government and the governments of Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. We took on the Canadian and Norwegian fur industry and the Canadian Sealing Association. We challenged them and through determination, perseverance, and patience we confronted and wore the killers down, year after year, utilizing the most powerfully effective weapon ever invented – the camera. Through visuals, through drama, and through the media we made the world aware of this atrocity against marine wildlife and we kept them aware- reminding the international public that our passion for the cause never died. Year after year we were in the face of the killers and year after year we grew stronger as the killers grew weaker.
Next month the Canadian government will once again toss out some ridiculously high kill quota followed by offers of subsidies (i.e. welfare) in their continued pathetic quest to keep the seal slaughter alive in the face of practically universal condemnation.
It matters not. They will fail. The writing is now on the wall and the seal hunt will be no more.
We have won. The seals have won. The Canadian seal hunt is dead!
Long live the seals.
Now we need to stop the slaughter of South African Fur Seals in Namibia.