April 9, 2009

What It Means to Survive The Baby Seal SLAUGHTER In Canada!

The Humane Society of the United States
What It Means to Survive
Written by Rebecca Aldworth
March 27, 2009

Observing the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals has always been—and until we end it, will continue to be—the hardest times of my life. In these 11 years of documenting Canada's commercial seal hunt, I've observed thousands of baby seals die violent deaths at the hands of those who put profit above compassion.

It's devastating to watch intelligent, beautiful, innocent creatures being clubbed and shot to death for their fur. The slaughter instills a sense of powerlessness and victimization like only the worst kinds of violence can. But it's the other observers on the ice who weigh heaviest on my heart. Sometimes a small number of seals manage to cheat death, either by staying out of sealers' sights or because they are a few days too young to kill. They witness the graphic death of sometimes hundreds of their former companions. Both survivors and victims, these seals are the exceptions.

During the “hunt,” sealers typically race to kill as many animals as quickly as possible—doing whatever it takes to meet their quotas. They bear down on entire groups of baby seals at a time, and then one by one, they beat them to death. The seals desperately try to escape, to no avail. But occasionally a few will be too young to kill, still covered in white fur. The sealers spare them, knowing the pups will have shed all their white fur within days—at which point the sealers can return to kill them.

They are the ones left to crawl—alone and terrified—through the blood and bodies of their former companions. Just three weeks old, many have not yet taken their first swim. Others haven't eaten their first solid meal. Yet they've witnessed levels of violence few adult humans can bear to watch. The gruesome nature of this "hunt" breaks my brain.

On Wednesday, shortly after the sealers had met their quota and the killing had finally stopped, we walked across the now silent ice floe, awash in blood. We saw one pup who had crawled into a small cave formed by ice. He hid his head as we approached, clearly terrified. I tried to talk softly to him, to let him know that it would be ok. But he just lay there, hiding his head and trembling. I realized that—as a human—the only thing I could do to comfort this seal would be to leave. I represented trauma and fear to him, and perhaps if he just hid his head for long enough, I'd go away. The feeling of helplessness was absolutely overwhelming.

This is just one of the tragedies of Canada's commercial seal kill. It's a senseless slaughter, rife with waste and pain. But as excruciating as it is to know what the pups face, I also have hope in my heart. Every day we are closer to ending this cruelty for good. More than ten countries have ended their trade in seal products in recent years. The boycott of Canadian seafood in the U.S. grows stronger, and around the globe people are raising their voices against the kill. In remembering the faces of those lucky few seals—and the thousands who've died already—I look toward a year very soon when they're all survivors. A year when only decency, mercy, compassion, and little baby seals exist out here on the ice.

Please help us save the seals»

Rebecca Aldworth is director of Humane Society International Canada (HSI Canada). For more than a decade, she has observed firsthand Canada's commercial seal hunt—escorting more than 100 scientists, parliamentarians and journalists to the ice floes to bear witness to the largest marine mammal slaughter on Earth.

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