By Paul Watson
”Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the six million, or whatever number is out there, killed or sold, or destroyed or burned. I do not care what happens to them. The fact that the markets are not there to sell more seals....What they (the fishermen) wanted was to have the right to go out and kill the seals. They have that right, and the more they kill, the better I will love it.”
—John Efford, former Newfoundland Minister of Fisheries and former Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, to the Newfoundland Legislature on May 4, 1998
The surest sign that the horrific commercial slaughter of baby harp seals will soon be ended is the fact that in a fit of whining desperation and seething anger, Canadian politicians and bureaucrats this week raised the kill quota of harp seals by 55,000 to a high of 338,000 seals. Canada also intends to kill 55,000 grey seals and 8,500 hood seals.
The bloody clubs of Canada’s East Coast barbarian culture will begin swinging this week upon the nursery ice floes in the Canadian Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This is the best response they can come up with after two weeks of heavy blows to their obscene and bloody industry.
The bureaucrats in the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans are throwing a temper tantrum after the announcement by President Vladimir Putin of Russia that the killing of baby seals by Russian sealers has been banned. Putin openly called it a “bloody business”. The Irish Parliament banned all seal pelts without loopholes and exemptions. LUSH stores with 600 retail outlets around the world are displaying full window displays condemning the seal slaughter in partnership with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and collecting petitions to send to the Canadian government.
For the first time ever, a member of the Canadian Senate, Senator Mac Harb, has drafted a motion to end the slaughter although only the Green Party has had the courage to speak out against the killing. The boycott of Canadian seafood organized by the Humane Society of the United States is still going strong. Demonstrations have taken place against the Canadian slaughter in hundreds of cities worldwide.
And next month, Europe is posed to pass a bill banning all seal products into European markets. Seal products have been banned in the USA since 1972 and the Canadian government’s negotiations with the Bush Administration to overturn the ban were shot down in flames with the election of President Barack Obama.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a hornet’s nest of hissy fits and nail-biting sore losers. They’ve lost and they know it, they just are refusing to accept the stark reality that their glorified welfare tradition of bashing out the brains of baby seals is an obscenity that will soon be tossed onto the immoral trash heap of history.
Over the last week, the Canadian government has been assaulting LUSH with their pathetic propaganda, whining that the seal defenders are being “unfair” in accusing Canadian sealers of killing baby seals. You see, it’s all in the definition. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans defines a baby seal as any seal over two weeks of age even if they can’t swim and are helpless on the ice as some cigarette-smoking, beer-chugging, club-swinging, sadistic, immoral thug approaches and proceeds to kick, slash, club, and skin them alive.
The bureaucrats and the politicians are paid to deny reality. A few years ago I debated Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette on Canadian national television. She was angrily insistent that the seal slaughter was, in her words, “the most well-managed, humane slaughter of animals in the world”.
Yet when I asked her if she had ever gone to the seal hunt, she admitted she had not. She was just mindlessly parroting the party line.
In Canada, in order to kiss the rear posteriors of Newfoundland and Eastern Quebec voters, the politicians actually bicker with each other over who loves the killing of seals the most in a childish game of competitive viciousness.
I have opposed the seal slaughter since the early 1960s. As a Canadian boy I deplored it and to this day I continue to oppose it. The government would have everyone believe that only city-dwelling, primarily foreign, middle class or upper middle class people who know nothing about fishing communities oppose the slaughter of seals.
Yet the leadership of the anti-sealing movement has been very much from the Maritimes provinces. Rebecca Aldworth, who leads the Humane Society of the United States efforts, is from a Newfoundland out port. Brigitte Curran, who led the demonstration in Halifax last week and has opposed the slaughter for years, is a Nova Scotian. I was raised in a fishing village in New Brunswick as the eldest of seven children in a poor community, where the poor kids like us went to school with lobster sandwiches because lobster were free for the taking (not any longer of course). As Maritimers from Atlantic Canada, we opposed the slaughter for the simple reasons that it is cruel, unnecessary, barbaric, and a threat to the Atlantic marine eco-system.
I have actively intervened against the slaughter of seals since 1975, leading numerous expeditions by ship into the ice to block, harass, and interfere with the vicious business of killing seals. During that time I have seen horrific acts of cruelty and I’ve experienced the violence of the sealers personally. I have been beaten, threatened, arrested, ridiculed, and persecuted by the government of Canada for almost forty years.
And now, finally, I can see the desperation in the eyes of the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the sealers. The world is changing and the barbarians are going to be left behind for there can be no place for the savage slaughter of seals, especially baby seals, in the 21st century.
Yes, seals will die this year, but they will not get their ridiculously high quota for the simple reason that the money is simply not there anymore. Only taxpayer subsidies can motivate the seal killers to afford to kill anymore. The profits are not there and the cost of fuel and the operation of their boats, the insurance, and the provisions just make it bad business.
But the Canadian government, in their fanatic zeal to see seals killed, have been responsible for the deaths of four sealers last year and the loss of numerous boats by refusing to enforce safety regulations with the result that ships are heading into the ice that were not built to sustain the conditions of the sea and weather at this time of year.
Last year, Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn’s policy of killing as many seals as possible saw four men killed when their wooden hulled fishing boat was dragged under the ice by a powerful Canadian government ice-breaker. His reaction was to switch the focus to Sea Shepherd by sending a SWAT team to board and seize our ship the Farley Mowat for the “crime” of documenting the killing of seals. That act alone has cost the government over a million dollars in losses.
Canadian fisheries ministers can always be counted on to overreact, as Loyola Hearn did last year. The current minister of fisheries, Gail Shea, has done to same with her hysterical announcement to increase the killing in the face of worldwide opposition. She knows that the sealers can’t possibly kill that many seals. It’s her way of saying that Canada will do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, however it wants with the seals and will never acknowledge that the slaughter of baby seals is the horrifically cruel massacre that the rest of the world views it. Instead of admitting defeat she has given the world the “finger” with this unscientific, politically motivated increase in kill numbers.
Today, with the head of the former KGB Mr. Putin calling the seal slaughter cruel and disgusting, with people from dozens of nations demonstrating all around the world, with nation after nation banning obscene seal products, with Canada’s name and reputation being dragged through the mud, with Ireland banning the pelts taken by Canadians of primarily Irish descent from Newfoundland, and with condemnation by the European Parliament, the writing is on the wall. The Canadian commercial seal hunt is on the ropes economically and will soon be going the way of other despicable practises throughout the ages like slavery, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, child labour, and scalp-hunting.
I don’t expect the Canadian government and the sealers to surrender gracefully. Grace is a virtue for gentlemen and women and there is nothing gentle about the sealers or the Canadian politicians who have been defending them for years. I’m sure they will continue to torture and kill seals for spite and perverse sadistic pleasure, to shoot them on sight, and to whine about the unfairness of the seal defenders as they cry cowardly tears into their stale Labatt’s beer. That is the behaviour I have come to expect from them—petty, vicious, whining, and cowardly. We’re probably stuck with them until the next post-seal killing generation, when their children’s children will look back in horror on the cruelty of their murdering ancestors.
But we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we will have crippled their sadistic industry with the result that far fewer seals will be killed in the future.
Last year, a Canadian reporter actually asked me if I was ready to apologize to the sealers for remarks I made accusing them of gross cruelty. I said that indeed I was, and looking into the live broadcast camera, I said, “I apologise for being a Canadian and being associated with the most vicious and barbaric slaughter on the planet—the Canadian seal hunt.”
Perhaps soon, hopefully very soon, I won’t have to continue to apologise for being a Canadian.
Captain Paul Watson is founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a founding member of the Greenpeace Foundation. He is a former contributor to the Georgia Straight and ran for mayor of Vancouver in 1996 as a candidate for the Green Party.