25 de jul de 2006
We arrived in Halifax on the afternoon of March 1st and then took a short flight on to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. On the plane we met a representative from the Canadian Department of Fisheries & Oceans, who tried to persuade us about the arguments for retaining the seal hunt. He told us that it was an economic necessity for the people in the area and gave us a few other 'facts'. Fortunately we had read up on the situation and we had a long discussion with him and listened fully to all his points but finally had to tell him that we felt that none of these reasons added up to the retention of the brutal seal hunt. It was good however to at least hear the other side of the story.
On arrival, Heather and I were met by representatives from Respect for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, who had organised this trip to visit the harp seals on the ice floes. The purpose of our trip was to raise awareness about the plight of the seals, as at this time of year hunters take part in a massive cull in which many baby seals are clubbed and shot to death for their fur.
Soon after our arrival, we had a briefing session with Respect for Animals and the Humane Society, who told us that this was the largest and most brutal marine mammal hunt on the planet, and that almost one million seals had been killed in the last three years. 97% of those seals were less than three months of age, and most of them just a few weeks old, still not old enough to have taken their first swim, or eaten their first solid meal.
The next day we took helicopters out to the ice floes. It was absolutely freezing, with a wind chill of minus 30 degrees, but we were wrapped up in special thermal suits to combat the cold. We also found some thermal hand warmers, which we managed to put inside our gloves and our boots. All around us were the beautiful harp seals and their baby seal pups, which we would defy anyone to be able to see up close and condone what is happening out there. It was heartbreaking to think that in a short time many of them will be clubbed to an untimely death. The good thing was that we had got the media out there and were surrounded by photographers & cameras, all wanting to get a piece of the action.
After spending three hours on the ice, talking to journalists, having our photographs taken, lying on the ice watching the pups with their mums, and taking in the breathtaking scenery, it was time to leave. As the helicopter took off, we looked out over the vast expanse of ice below. It was so very sad, and we sat in silence for a while, just thinking of what was to come, how the ice would soon be turned red with their blood. Then it was back to Charlottetown for debriefing and dinner with our Respect for Animals and Humane Society colleagues, during which we all agreed that this barbaric practice must be stopped once and for all. The next morning we all met up for a further de-briefing session, during which we discussed what our strategy should be. That day Heather and I did an interview for the Larry King Show with Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland, who came up with some comments that we found rather strange, including a reference to the FBI having a file on the animal awareness group PETA and the suggestion that they were considered to be terrorists, which having known them for many years we found ludicrous. He didn't deter us however.
One of the things that I most remember from the trip is that literally the first thing we saw on reaching that part of the world was a newspaper article, in which a 70 year-old fisherman said something like "We don't want these people coming here. All they will do is have their pictures taken with the seals and say that they are cute and then say that seal hunting is cruel. Well, it is cruel..but we have been doing it for 500 years so it is right". We couldn't believe that he was condemning it out of his own mouth!
In summary, our feelings are that a 500 year old tradition is absolutely no excuse for continuing to kill these beautiful animals. We were also struck by the fact that, despite arguments to the contrary, these seals don't deplete the cod resources - in fact they form a crucial part of a delicate eco-system and actually eat many of the cod predators. Many people agree that it's actually man's over-fishing that is the problem. Unfortunately, as we suspected, the seal hunt has gone ahead and around 91,000 of these beautiful creatures have been battered to death (with 235,000 more due to be killed this week) and the voices of the world have once again been raised against Canada and this brutal practice.
In general we have had some great feedback and feel that we have successfully raised awareness about this important issue. We would now like to set up an ongoing appeal and debate through this website to involve all of you and find out what you think. So let's talk! We want to hear your views. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with us - it's just important to keep talking about issues such as this. We feel that the more information we are able to give people, the more we believe our case will be proved. Please join us in speaking out about this terrible seal hunt and perhaps together we will be able to persuade the Canadian Government that the majority of Canadian people want this to stop.
We contacted Tony Blair's office about the seal hunt and received the following encouraging reply:"The British Government is opposed to the current seal hunt in Canada. The Canadian Government is fully aware of the UK Government's position. We would prefer it if all seal hunting for commercial purposes were banned and we raise our opposition to the hunt with the Canadian Government as appropriate."