The Ongoing Plight of Seal Pups

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The Ongoing Plight of Seal Pups

2010-03-28T12:15:39+00:00March 28th, 2010|Marine Mammals, Uncategorized|4 Comments
Harp Seal Pup - iStockphoto

Harp Seal Pup - iStockphoto

I wrote this post last year at the onset of the big seal hunt. The hunt and the issues surrounding it are still the same except that this year, the Canadian government has actually increased the quota of seal pups that will slaughtered — from 280,000 to 388,000. On a related but more positive note, in 2009, the EU also joined the US in banning seal product imports.

From March 2009:

The unavoidable reality of working with (or caring about) animals is witnessing the things we humans sometimes do to those animals. Years ago, when I first learned of this hunt, I thought it would soon be obsolete — that the horrifying images which left me sleepless would equally shock the world.

But every year, the Canadian seal hunt continues. And this year, with the instant access of Twitter, I was reminded on the eve of the slaughter, from committed voices on ice, documenting the tragic scene and asking the rest of us to view this hunt in its brutal reality.

I find it one of the most egregious actions humans perpetrate against animal kind — for its methodolgy and its scope. In the context of the Canadian seal hunt, baby seals are clubbed to death by the thousands in the sanctuary of their nurseries — in front of other seals and pups — leaving puddles and trails of blood across the ice. The Humane Society (HSUS) is documenting time on the ice, bearing witness to and broadcasting the atrocities inherent in this annual butchering of seals for fur. The Canadian government is permitting the killing of 280,000 seals this year, in this controversial commercial practice.

The hunt has been shown to be inordinately cruel to the baby seals. I’ll spare you the graphic depictions. But they are practices you can read about at the Humane Society and Sea Shepherd pages below. If you can muster the courage to look, I feel it’s important to understand just why the objection to this hunt is so strong. There’s often no more powerful a call to action than in sweeping back that cloak and seeing an action for what it is. If you can’t do it, or have done it enough, forget this part. But at least have a read about what the HSUS, Sea Shepherd and other marine mammal protection groups are doing — those who see and broadcast firsthand from the site of the hunt.

The Humane Society promotes a boycott of Canadian seafood products to press the government for a humane end to this commercial seal hunt/slaughter. According to HSUS, Canadian seafood exports to the United States contribute $2.4 billion annually to the Canadian economy. (You can see a province-by-province breakdown here from the Canadian fisheries site). It’s a far more important source of income to sealers’ than is the sale of pelts.

Some additional links for a bigger view of the hunt and its beneficiaries:


  1. Willard Hill April 1, 2010 at 8:06 am - Reply


    I wish to thank you for your recent comment on Support PA Elk. I was an avid hunter from early in my youth until 1997-98, but my attitudes slowly changed and my interactions with the Pennsylvania Elk Herd was primarily responsible for bringing this about.

    I find the activity you have described in this post to be very disturbing. One hopes that it will be stopped, but it is hard to be too optimistic about it.

    I post at Support PA Elk as part of a team, but I also have a nature oriented blog, Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer:, which promotes the non-consumptive enjoyment of wildlife (photography, filming, and wildlife watching).

    I didn’t write the article you commented on, my brother did, but I contribute to the blog and have written several posts about the hunting situation.

    Again thanks for your input.

    Willard Hill

  2. ingrid April 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Willard, thanks for taking the time to comment. I stopped by your photography site and I must say — those shots of the wetlands, tundra swans and snow geese evoke some of my most blissful, quiet times with the wild birds.

    I’m always interested in the experience of those who used to hunt and who no longer hunt. A friend of mine in the Northwest recently gave up waterfowl hunting. A life-long duck hunter, he told me that one day, as he aimed his shotgun, he simply couldn’t shoot. He laid the gun down and his hunting partner said, “you’re done, aren’t you?” He said, “yes.” Like you, he now photographs wildlife.

    How would you compare your life now, engaged in non-consumptive activities versus your life when you were a hunter? That seems an extraordinary transition to make — although I can understand how it might have happened, given your interaction with the herd. My own feelings toward wildlife have changed since I began working as a rehab volunteer. It becomes difficult to compartmentalize animals when you cross those artificial boundaries set up precisely to commercialize one animal or another.

  3. Willard Hill April 8, 2010 at 10:31 am - Reply

    I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner to respond to your question and thanks for stopping by my blog again and commenting.

    To answer your question: I think that serious wildlife observation, photography, and filming is so much more rewarding than what I experienced during my hunting years that there is no comparison. I actually did photograph wildlife most of the years I hunted, but found that as time went on I enjoyed the non-hunting aspect more than the hunting. I also worked part time wildlife conservation law-enforcement and dealt with a lot of disgusting behavior on the part of the hunting public. It would take a book to describe my changing attitudes, but several factors came together over a period of years that led to a completely different outlook on nature than I started with.

    If you read my blog enough you will notice a lot of posts about whitetail deer. Some of the deer photos are from National Parks, but most are from a herd which exists on a large estate where there is no doe hunting. In time these animals came to accept me and walked about me freely. This led to a complete change in my attitude as I no longer looked at deer as objects to hunt, but rather as interesting animals that actually had distinctive personality types. They also had the ability to identify particular humans and to either regard them as a threat or accept them. At this point any interest in hunting was over for me.

    I came to see that the mission of the state conservation agency that I worked for was more about raising wildlife for hunting purposes, while I was interested in protecting wildlife and having wildlife for its own sake. When I went to work for the agency we had much the same goals, but with the passing of time these goals started to diverge wildly. I was glad to reach retirement age before this became a significant problem.

  4. ingrid April 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Willard, thank you for your perspectives on the hunting versus the non-hunting life. I appreciate you taking the time to offer such a lucid description of that personal transformation. Interesting . . . your experience in an official capacity. I had a friend who also worked for a state agency. When he started out, he himself was a hunter. But he hunted less and less over time because of the things he saw, probably similar to what you experienced. The bad behavior and effects soured his desire to participate.

    I’ve often wondered . . . if all people could have the experience you’ve had . . . or that my husband and I have had (working intimately with wild animals in a rescue setting) . . . I’ve wondered if they could ever pick up a weapon and harm one of these animals again. I think it would feel, to them, like hunting their own dog or cat. Because, as you say, you come to realize that a wild animal, like a deer, is as individual in personality and feeling as is any of our pets — and even ourselves. (Not that they are us or we are them.)

    I’ve been told more than once that I’m naive for having these perspectives — that humans are predators, that killing is just hard-wired into the human psyche. I don’t believe that’s true. For one thing, it’s hard to be naive when you’ve seen what I’ve seen. But more importantly, there are many who don’t share those inclinations, or who alter their perspectives through life experience.

    I always thought I “knew” about animals, given my work with domestic animals. But even for me, it wasn’t until I started at the wildlife hospital that I genuinely understood the nature and sentience of various wild mammals and birds. I think it changes everyone. It’s a paradigm shift that has left me, at once, grateful for the experience and insight — but also permanently conflicted over the way wild animals are treated by our societal double standard. There are very few times I venture out and feel totally at peace about the way people are interacting with wildlife. I guess you could say it’s also made me more of sad person, in terms of my inability to reconcile it all on behalf of these living entities. They deserve so much more from us, since we, as humans, can, indeed, choose compassion.

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