Seal Slaughter is Stain on Canada

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Before the end of March, men armed with clubs, guns and knives will begin the annual slaughter of thousands of baby seals in Canada so they can harvest their fur coats. Seal pups can legally be killed as soon as they have molted their white natal fur, when they are about 12 days old. During last year's hunt, almost all of the seals killed were just two months old or younger. Many had not yet learned how to swim or eaten their first solid meal. Hunters object to calling these seals "babies," but that's what they are. They are helpless and have no escape from the violence raining down on them.

Americans should join Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills McCartney in protesting the killing. The McCartneys traveled to Canada and appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live in early March to appeal to the newly elected Canadian prime minister to stop the hunt. In a heated debate, one of the hunt's biggest cheerleaders, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, stated "for the record' that he does not condone 'inhumane activity towards animals."

If so much suffering weren't involved, this statement would almost be funny. What Mr. Williams and others defending the hunt - and there aren't many of them - don't seem to understand is that, to most of us, bludgeoning young seals and leaving them to crawl around in their own blood is the very definition of "inhumane activity."

But decide for yourselves: Last year, hunt observers watched as conscious baby seals were stabbed with boat hooks and dragged across the ice. They saw baby seals beaten until the ice around them turned scarlet. In some cases, wounded pups were left to choke on their own blood as hunters rushed to attack the next scampering victim.

Rebecca Aldworth, a native Newfoundlander who for years has worked to stop the seal slaughter, described this scene during last year's hunt:

"A movement catches my eye, and I realize with horror that a clubbed baby seal is still conscious. She is writhing around on the ice in pain, moving her flippers. She lies next to another seal who has been killed, vacant eyes staring up, blood already frozen in the ice under her mouth. It is a macabre scene - the dead and the dying huddled together here in the rain."

Aldworth continues: The seal "is trying to crawl, and making anguished sounds. ... She is trying so hard to live, and I know there is no hope for her. She has her eyes tightly shut, as if to keep out the sight of the dead seals around her."

This pathetic spectacle is repeated over and over on Canada's ice floes every spring, and for what? For something as frivolous as a fur coat.

Canadian officials claim that the hunt is "economically important." Never mind that this cruelty is propped up by millions of dollars in subsidies every year or that in Newfoundland, where most of the sealers live, hunt revenues account for less than one percent of the province's economy.

Never mind that Italy (one of the "furriest" nations in Europe) and Greenland recently banned imports of seal pelts. Or that more than 400 restaurants and companies have pledged to boycott some or all Canadian seafood until the seal hunt is finally ended.

The seal hunt generates more and more bad publicity for Canada every year and if new Prime Minister Stephen Harper is smart, he will take steps to outlaw it. But the rest of us can do our part, too, simply by refusing to buy fur. As long as there is a demand for fur-trimmed jackets, fur boots and fur coats, seals will continue to be beaten bloody on the ice. It's that simple.

Paula Moore is senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

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