Peace Talks

Peace Talks is a political talk show that I host weekly on Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1 fm (and streaming on-line at

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Massive Seal "Hunt" Continues In Eastern Canada; EU May Vote to Ban Canadian Seal Products

On April 15, 2008, I interviewed Rebecca Aldworth, the Director of Canadian Wildlife Issues for the Humane Society International-Canada about the 2008 Canadian Seal "Hunt". For the past ten years, she has been a firsthand observer of Canada's commercial seal hunt, escorting over one hundred scientists, parliamentarians and journalists to the ice floes to witness the slaughter.

Seal hunting is an off-season activity conducted by fishermen from Canada's East Coast. They earn a small fraction of their incomes (5%) from sealing—primarily from the sale of seal pelts to European fashion markets. The vast majority of the seal meat is left on the ice to rot. With the EU currently considering a ban on all Canadian seal products, this might be the last year that this mass killing (300,000 baby seals this season alone) takes place.

We discussed the reasons for this massive annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals, why it is not sustainable, how the seals are killed, and what actions are being taken to finally end this unimaginably cruel "hunt".

Listen To The Interview

Below are a couple of the posts from Rebecca on the HSUS website:

Posted April 14, 9:11 A.M.

Until It's Over
by Rebecca Aldworth

For me, the 2008 seal hunt comes down to three young seal pups huddled together on an ice pan. They lay together, fat and happy in the sun. Without warning, bullets ripped across the ice, striking two of them.

One was shot but not killed, and she began to writhe in agony, lifting her head. Another was shot and—still conscious—she slipped into the ocean, where she thrashed around as the blood poured from her. It took a lifetime for the small boat with two sealers on it to arrive.

They finally got close enough for one of the sealers to get out on the ice. He ran over to the wounded pup, clubbed her on the head, then tossed her onto a pile of dead seals in the boat like garbage. She was quickly sliced open and skinned, her carcass cut out and thrown over the side of the boat.

The wounded seal in the water was still thrashing around, blood coloring everything around her. A sealer leaned over the side of the boat, stabbed her through the flipper with a metal hook, and dragged her close to the boat.

Then he reached down and grabbed her by the flipper, hauled her onto the boat and tossed her onto the pile of dead seals. She was likely still conscious, but he didn't check, and he didn't club her to finish her off. Instead, he flipped her over and cut her from top to bottom.

But for me, the 2008 seal hunt is also about the third seal, the lucky one who got away. He slipped into the water as the bullets flew by, and swam off as fast as he could. He was spared, just like thousands more who will not be killed this year because global markets for seal products are closing.

Because prices for the skin of a baby seal have fallen dramatically, and many sealers are choosing to stay home this year instead of heading for the ice floes. The manager from a top sealskin processor in Canada explained that buyers have been mindful of a potential EU ban on seal products when setting the low prices this year. Just the potential for an EU ban has brought the prices down low enough to stop two thirds of the sealing vessels from leaving port.

If the EU goes through with the ban, millions of animals will be spared a horrible fate. Our campaign is working. But while this hunt goes on, we will be here. Bearing witness to this cruel slaughter, gathering evidence to shut this hunt down for good. Please help pass the ban—sign the petition here.

Posted April 13, 10:10 A.M.

Undeniably Inhumane
by Rebecca Aldworth

Words cannot describe the cruelty I witnessed yesterday. As I write this, I am finding it hard to see through tears. The boats were everywhere. Sealers clubbed and shot helpless baby seals, every one in sight.

We filmed one boat and noticed a sealer at the front of the vessel holding a rifle. We quickly zoomed ahead to see which seal he was aiming at. As we looked through the monitor, we saw the pup about 50 meters in front of the boat. She raised her head as if sensing danger, when suddenly a bullet slammed into her side.

She cried and cried—clearly in agony—and blood spilled onto the ice. Finally, the sealer arrived. The pup looked up pitifully, as though she hoped this person could offer help.

But instead, he clubbed her once on the head and—without testing to see if she was unconscious—stabbed her through the jaw with a metal hook and dragged her across the ice.

She was just one month old. Above in our helicopter, we watched in horror.

There was blood all across the ice. Trails of it leading back to the boats, massive bloody pools of it the only remains of slaughtered baby seals. In some areas, the ocean near the boats turned red, clearly visible from 1000 feet in the air.

The sealers did not want us to film them abandoning the carcasses—so just as they did last year, they brought them on board the boats. We filmed stockpiles of hundreds of dead seals on the decks, which were awash in blood.

Sealers often didn't even test for unconsciousness before
hooking the pups and dragging them across the ice.

Whenever the sealers thought we were too far to film, they tossed the red, skinned bodies over the side.

The Canadian government has made a concerted effort to convince European decision-makers that this hunt is now somehow humane.

But their carefully crafted PR lines cannot refute the evidence we gathered today. Any human being who watches our footage will understand this slaughter simply has to end—and those who cash in by promoting it should be deeply ashamed.

I grew up in this province, and it has been difficult at times to take the stand I do. But there is a line between right and wrong, and it becomes crystal clear when you observe the slaughter of defenseless seal pups.

"Any human being who watches our footage will understand
this slaughter simply has to end."
I remember a pilot I worked with a few years ago, who was born in Newfoundland and raised in a fishing community.

He reluctantly agreed to fly for us, and he made it clear that he was strongly in favor of the seal hunt. It took one day of filming the slaughter for him to change his mind.

The thing is, once you have seen it you can never support it. And having seen it for ten years, we will not rest until Canada's commercial seal hunt is ended for good


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