Skip to comments.Outrage at new mass slaughter of baby seals
Posted on 04/10/2004 6:53:21 PM PDT by Pikamax
Outrage at new mass slaughter of baby seals
Images of cull return to haunt world again
Mark Townsend Sunday April 11, 2004 The Observer
Soon after dawn breaks above Newfoundland tomorrow, the ice sheets will be suffused with crimson as an army of hunters embark on the largest single cull of baby seals in more than half a century. Up to 10,000 animals are scheduled to be killed every hour during daylight. By nightfall on Tuesday, at least 140,000 young harp seals will have been shot, beaten or clubbed to death on the huge ice floes found among the seas off Canada's far northern coast.
During that 36 hours, around 2,500 men clutching steel-tipped clubs will repeatedly fan out across the vast wilderness in search of their prey. Some seals will be be killed using hakapics - a primitive weapon with a metal spike on the end of a wooden pole. The remainder will be shot with high-velocity, long-distance rifles.
Witnesses to last week's initial smaller-scale culls in the nearby Gulf of St Lawrence described entire ice shelves sopping with blood. Elsewhere, red trails criss-crossed the ice where carcasses had been dragged by hooks to waiting fishing vessels. They also reported a number of young animals left convulsing after initial strikes failed to kill them instantly.
The Canadian government is determined to keep the eyes of the world's media away from the killing zone. Special permits must be obtained before the public can venture near the ice, a process critics claim is often a needlessly lengthy and frustrating exercise designed to thwart observers from witnessing the cull.
But The Observer has obtained exclusive pictures documenting the first hours of last week's preliminary culls - footage that offers an insight into the methods used. Activists for the animal rights group International Fund for Animal Welfare hope the images will provoke widespread outrage and lead to an international ban on seal products.
Any ban will come too late for this year's seals. A flotilla of 150 trawlers will gather at dawn tomorrow 100 miles north of Newfoundland to begin the most intensive phase of the cull. Animal rights protesters are stunned and frustrated, complaining that the cull will be conducted unobserved due to its remote location.
Katy Heath-Eves, who is monitoring the situation for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: 'The cull is back with a vengeance. Two days is all they need. It's going to be bloody out there.'
This week's hunt confirms a sharp escalation in the size of Canada's seal cull, which almost died out amid international outrage 20 years ago. Yet, quietly and away from the world's media, the hunt has been growing steadily in size over the past six years.
By the end of May, one in three of the region's seals will have been killed, many for their natural fur. The Canadian government has given its fishermen permission to kill 350,000 baby harp seals, an increase of 100,000 above the previous year. Over the next five weeks, fishermen using smaller boats will account for the rest of the quota. In addition, critics claim that many wounded animals who escape under the ice for safety, where they die, are not included in official kill counts.
The sudden growth of the cull has been aided by new markets in Russia and Poland alongside a sharp rise in the price of sealskin. Since 2001, the value of a top-grade harp sealskin has more than doubled to about £30, almost the price of the early 1970s. Seal genitals are often hacked off and sold to the Far East, where they are prized as an aphrodisiac and can fetch up to £200 each. Seal hunters will earn up to £600 a day this week before returning to theport of St John's, Newfoundland, on Wednesday.
Yet advocates of the hunt claim not only is it vital to the local economy, with thousands of jobs at stake, but that the growing seal population is contributing to a collapse in cod. An adult seal can eat an estimated ton of sea life annually. Local media call seals 'huge fish-gobblers'. However, this is contradicted by the findings of independent scientists, who blame the dramatic collapse of the Newfoundland fishery, once one of the richest in the world but now a watery wasteland, on intensive overfishing.
Whatever the truth, this week's large-scale resumption of the cull is a far cry from when the practice appeared virtually finished. On the US banning the import of seal products in 1972 and the European Union outlawing imports of the white pelts of the youngest pups in 1983, the cull fell to as low as 15,000 harp seals two years later.
Several European governments are considering plans to ban all seal products. Britain has yet to decide its public stance, despite lobbying from animal welfare groups. Although the Canadian government claims seals are no longer skinned alive during the culls, recent eye-witness accounts claim otherwise, corroborating studies suggesting that more than four in 10 pups are still alive when hunters skin them.
However, Canada has won plaudits for how it reacted to international outrage over the culls. The government has banned the killing of 'whitecoats' - the youngest pups up to 12 days old. Now only seals who have shed their white coats at about three weeks old are killed for their black-spotted, silvery fur. Before this year's hunt, officials added an extra requirement that hunters examine the skull of the seal or touch the eyes to test for reflexes to ensure that a seal is brain dead before skinning.
I thought the Canadians were supposed to be kinder than we are.
Uh. Yeah. On planet earth it is possible to be outraged by more than one thing at a time.
In fact, it calls into serious question their own humanity.
That includes the one last week about the psychopath who drop-kicked a 2-pound, 17 year-old yorkshire terrier to death in front of its owner.
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