2,500 march against sealing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1998:

OTTAWA––At 1,000 strong, the
lightly publicized Canadians Against the
Commercial Seal Hunt rally outside the
Liberal Party convention on March 31 was
already the largest animal rights demonstration
Canada ever had.
Then 48 buses rolled in from as far
away as Quebec City and Windsor. By the
time International Fund for Animal Welfare
Canadian director Rick Smith rose to speak,
2,500 people formed “a sea of crimson CATCSH
hats that stretched from the stage across the
closed Colonel By Drive and up the spiral
staircase of the MacKenzie King Bridge,”
Don Fraser of the Ottawa Citizen reported.
Inside, the Liberal government still
didn’t get it, reportedly just barely winning a
resolution from the delegates in favor of continued
sealing and big quotas, on the false
premise that seals rather than political policy
makers are primarily responsible for the
Atlantic Canada cod crash.

The next day an all-parties Parliamentary
committee urged relaxation of sealing
rules to permit even more killing. But it did at
least acknowledge that, “It is abundantly
clear…the federal government itself is in large
part responsible for the collapse of the northern
cod,” commonly blamed on seals by
politicians despite the weight of biological evidence
to the contrary.
Bad ice
The hunt started late.
“There was 85% less ice than normal,”
explained Captain Paul Watson of the
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
That forced the whelping seals into
the usually protected area off the north shore
of Prince Edward Island, where seal slaughter
has always before been banned––apparently
because too many people might see it.
“We thought there wouldn’t be a
hunt,” said Watson. “No seals were killed
from March 15 to March 20. Then the government
lifted the boundaries of the protected
zone. That was very irresponsible. There
wasn’t enough ice even there to support a lot
of seals. My crew rescued hundreds of baby
seals,” who were marooned by cracking ice
until picked up and relocated to stronger floes.
By April 8 the sealers had already
massacred their quota of 10,000 hooded seals,
but they could keep killing harp seals until
they got 275,000. Because the ice was so bad,
however, the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans announced it would not survey the seal
population this year, “based on the scientific
advice that the unusual ice conditions would
produce inconsistent data,” apparently meaning
much lower numbers of seals––because of
failures to whelp successfully––than the
Canadian government pretends exist.
Going to press on March 15, the
official first day of sealing, the April edition
o f ANIMAL PEOPLE erroneously reported
the participation of celebrities Linda Blair,
Pierce Brosnan, and Brigitte Bardot in a Sea
Shepherd press conference, as announced.
“We thought they were coming,”
Watson said, “but Blair and Brosnan sent their
regrets at the last minute, and Bardot tried to
make it, but her flight was delayed in Paris by
engine trouble.”
Author Farley Mowat got there,
though, as did personal care products manufacturer
John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell
Systems. Watson and Sea Shepherd international
director Lisa Distefano took DeJoria out
on the ice to demonstrate the technique of
brushing the wool from molting whitecoats
that they believe will become the basis of a
much more lucrative business than sealing ever
has been, if the Canadian government ever
becomes more interested in economic development
in the Maritime provinces than in pacifying
frustrated fishers by allowing them to
wreak mayhem on imagined rivals for fishedout
cod and Atlantic salmon. The Sea
Shepherds sent about 50 pounds of seal wool
to Germany for use in evaluating and developing
the eventual product line.
The lack of ice caused many seals to
haul out on Prince Edward Island itself, where
according to an April 3 Sea Shepherd release
“the locals have been extraordinarily brutal.
Sources on PEI,” the release said, “are reporting
individuals cutting off the flippers of pups,
rolling them over with their feet, kicking
them, and leaving them to bleed to death. The
flippers were later seen hanging like trophies
from pickup trucks. There have been many
reports of seals skinned alive, penises tied to
car radio antennas, and an incident in which
an adult seal, half skinned and still alive, was
dragged behind a truck while the four occupants
in the cab, covered in blood, yelled out
the windows. The Department of Fisheries
and Oceans continues to ignore or deny knowledge
of these violations, and authorities have
routinely released sealers for lack of evidence,
even with witnesses present.”
The Charlottetown Guardian c o nfirmed
the Sea Shepherd account.
“One good outcome”
The poor ice conditions “had one
good outcome,” the release continued. “There
was only one ice floe of any size and consistency
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, so for over
a week, constantly shadowed by a pair of
Canadian Coast Guard ice breakers, the Sea
Shepherd III serenely anchored itself in the
midst of the largest seal nursery in the Gulf,
just north of the Magdalen Islands, where it
proceded to watch over its flock. Sea
Shepherd’s reputation preceded it: only one
sealing ship showed up while the Sea
Shepherd III was on duty, and it quickly left.”
that he suspected that the one sealing vessel
they saw was actually a decoy, sent to try to
lure the Sea Shepherds into a confrontation
that would give the Canadian authorities a pretext
to evict them from the area.
U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy,
John McCain, Alphonse D’Amato,
Christopher Dodd, John Kerry, Jim Jeffords,
Joseph Lieberman, and Jack Reed in early
April asked the Canadian government to cease
subsidizing the seal hunt.
Contrary to Canadian assertions that
the killing was limited to the pre-set quota and
that infant seals were not killed, the Senators
wrote, “Other estimates suggest that up to
500,000 seals were killed [last year], nearly
twice Canada’s legal limit, and reports have
found that many of these animals were only
weeks old and were killed by cruel methods.”
The Senators said they were aware
of the hardship suffered by Atlantic Canadians
because of the fish scarcity. “However,” they
concluded, “we believe that subsidizing cruel
practices with potentially serious environmental
consequences is unlikely to achieve the
longterm economic development we all
Canadian Press dismissed the letter
as coming from representatives of “New
England states and fishing interests that might
compete with those in Atlantic Canada.”
How this might be, since Atlantic
Canada doesn’t have fish to sell in competition
with New England, and New England fishers
aren’t cutting off seal penises, Canadian Press
did not explain.

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