Sheryl Fink: Canadians must speak out on commercial seal hunt in federal election
Each spring for the last 10 years, I have been on the East Coast to document the commercial seal hunt. Each year, I must steel myself against the government misinformation, the false accusations against IFAW, and of course the horrors that we will face. And each year, just when I think I’ve seen it all, another example of callous cruelty-for-profit shows its hideous face.
As I write this, I am in Newfoundland and Labrador documenting the commercial seal hunt once again. Although the hunt is relatively small in scale this year, the cruelty that we are capturing is some of the worst in memory. Reviewing the day’s footage, we watch sealers as they flagrantly ignore the regulations time after time, in full view of our cameras.
A pair of sealers pose for a photo with a young pup, then pick it up by the hind flippers and hurl it onto an adjacent ice pan. A pup is shot but not killed. Bleeding profusely, it struggles and shudders on the ice pan, flippers clenched in pain until it is finally hooked, dragged on board, and killed. Another pup, its belly already slit open, reaches up from the bottom of a skiff and waves a paw with deliberate movement, a gesture of consciousness ignored by the sealer as he throws other carcasses on top. A sealer reaches down from the boat deck and drives a steel hook through the eye of a live pup as it tries helplessly to defend itself by biting at the hook.
As I watch this footage, the voices of our political leaders burn in my ears. “The seal hunt is humane,” they say. “It is well regulated.” “It is economically important.”
I know these are all lies. Our observations attest to the cruelty that is inherent in this hunt. We see no monitoring or enforcement of the regulations—inadequate as they are. And with pelt prices hovering at around $20 a skin, and mounting evidence that sealing now requires more in subsidies than it actually brings in, the economic justification for this slaughter is nonexistent. There can be no more excuses.
This year, the commercial harp seal hunt falls in the midst of a federal election. Now, more than ever, we need Canadians to speak out against this slaughter. It is cruel, it is unnecessary, it tarnishes this country’s reputation internationally, and it only survives because it is being propped up and supported by Canadian taxpayer dollars. Canadians can no longer afford to stay quiet. We need to let our political candidates know that we want the seal hunt to end. We need to elect leaders who are both courageous and compassionate. We need to build a Canada that is better for both animals and people.
Sheryl Fink is the director of the seal program at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.