Whenever I see emails in my inbox from Humane Society International, I try not to open them. I know reading them is going to be painful. Brutal. Sometimes, I leave them until the end of the day so that I can be informed without being sick to my stomach.
The issue is an emotional one for a lot of people.
One that tugs at my heartstrings no matter how hard I try to turn the other way or how deep into the tar sands I bury my head. I pray that it will go away but prayer doesn’t always work like that. I try to see both sides of the issue, I work at being even-handed but all I can see is that club and the red blood on white snow.
As a reporter I know there is a history, a tradition, a reason for the seal slaughter.
There are other people and their livelihoods to consider such as Inuit survival in Canada’s northlands. I try hard to understand why so many hundreds of mostly young seals must be killed each year to satisfy that need.
On April 12, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter opened off Newfoundland and I’m sure lots of baby seals – the ones with the adorable faces and pleading eyes looking up helplessly as they are clubbed to death – wish their date with death had never come. So do I.
The Humane Society International (Canada) is the country’s – and the world’s – watchdog of the events that unfold annually in Newfoundland and other northern areas with a commercial sealing industry.
According to an April 23 HSI media advisory, more than 35 nations have prohibited some or all products of commercial seal hunts but Canada has the distinction of standing firm in its resolve to continue promoting it.
“National polling shows that the majority of Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.”
On this issue, I stand with the majority.
Even though I’ve read conflicting reports about how humane or efficient is the manner in which pup seals are killed – and that cattle and chicken have a much worse time of it – I’m not convinced that being bludgeoned to death is the kindest method. Like most people, though, I also have to rely on photos and videos (with graphic footage warnings), supplied by the only protest organization that keeps reporters like me in the loop.
Some documentaries tell a different story.
I have of course read the critics’ comments that this is all just well orchestrated propaganda designed to tug at people’s hearts – people like me who have a beating, some would say bleeding heart, and love animals.
So guess what? It works.
Especially when I hear (also through the HSI) about government reports that say more than 98 per cent of seals killed in Canada’s annual seal “hunt” (how hard are they to find lying on the ice?) are less than three months old. And that many young animals, in their futile efforts to escape their captors, suffer greatly before they die.
No mother can hear that and not weep.
So the debate goes on and the protests and visits by Hollywood celebrities like Bridget Bardot and more recently, Paul McCartney will come and go. And all we who are so far away from the reality and truth about our country’s seal hunt will be left with is the horrific images of pleading puppy dog eyes and red blood on snow.