Friday, March 6, 2009
Skinned Alive: The Harp Seal Massacre
All info from HarpSeals.org--
Harp seal pups are famous for their big black eyes and fluffy white fur. These are their trademarks in their first two weeks of life. But these beautiful and gentle creatures have the unfortunate status of annually suffering the largest slaughter of any marine mammal species on the planet.
Every year, when the time is "right" (as soon as the ice conditions permit and the seal pups start shedding their fuzzy white coats), about 2,000 to 6,000 Canadian fishermen (most of European descent and most living in Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands of Quebec), find their way to the floes and proceed to club, bludgeon, shoot, and skin hundreds of thousands of harp seals, most just a few weeks to a few months old.
Phase 1 of the hunt:
In the first phase of the hunt (in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, dominated by sealers from the Magdalen Islands of Quebec), sealers typically approach the seals and then club them with 'hakapiks' (long sticks with a hooked blade at one end). After clubbing the seals, they are supposed to perform the 'blinking-eye' test, checking whether the seals blink, before skinning them. If the seal is not dead, sealers may dispatch the seal with a variety of methods, including kicking in the face and/ or continuing to beat the seal pups on the head with the hakapiks. The sealer may move on to other seals before skinning them or may skin them at that time. He will drag the seal to the boat with the hook end of the hakapik. If the sealer did not bother to check whether the seal was dead, the seal may conscious when the hooked blade is plunged into its mouth or head. An analysis by a panel of veterinarians showed that about 40% of the seals are actually skinned alive.
Phase 2 of the hunt:
In the second phase of the seal hunt, on the Front, in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador, seals are more mobile and able to swim, so sealers (mostly Newfoundland fishermen) typically shoot them from their boats. They aim for the head to avoid damaging the pelt. If they miss and wound the seal, they may get out of the boat and club the seal, unless the seal gets away into the water. In that case, the seal likely dies in the water and may never be recovered (or counted towards the quota). Sealers retrieve the seals with hooks, e.g., the hooked end of the hakapik, so if the seal was not killed by the bullet, it may be conscious when the hook is plunged into its mouth and it is dragged on the boat.
About 95% of the seals killed in the commercial seal 'hunt' are no more than 3 months old.
Most of the seal hunters are fishermen who were need to make money for their family. This is a tragedy, and there certainly needs to be a "replacement" before this slaughter can be stopped so that fishermen will be able to make a good living. Over 40,000 cod fishmen lost their jobs due to years of overfishing, inept DFO management of fisheries and ocean ecosystems, and unenforced regulations, Canada suffered a total collapse of the once bountiful cod fishery on their Eastern seaboard in the early 1990's. (See Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Collapse by Greenpeace.)
How Can You Save the Baby Seals?!
1) Boycott Canadian Seafood
'Red Lobster' is one of the leading consumers of Canadian seafood in America.
The Canadian sealers are fishermen. Sealing is an off-season activity for them, a way to earn a few bucks before the start of the fishing season. Since seal fur and other seal products are illegal in the U.S (thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act), Americans can't boycott the seal pelts. But these fishermen sell their seafood to Americans. The Canadian seafood boycott allows us to pressure sealers to stop killing seals - or risk losing their main source of income.
2) BUY 'Save the seal' merchandise HERE
3) Write to officials etc.
To find out more or get involved, visit Harpseals.org