Canada is a beautiful country. I filmed my first television acting role there, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1963. It was an episode of “The Littlest Hobo,” and I was four years old. I played Cindy, a little girl who climbs out of the back of her parents’ station wagon to rescue her teddy bear whom she dropped out of the window. Her parents, unaware she’s climbed out, drive off, leaving Cindy alone in the woods. The little girl is ultimately rescued and reunited with her parents thanks to a heroic German Shepherd. I enjoyed my visit to Canada, although filming outdoors in November it got pretty chilly at times.
Canada is home to extraordinary animals like grizzly bears, caribou, bison, and humpback whales. But Canada is also home to the shameful, brutal murder of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals. It’s the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world.
Every spring, soon after the babies are born, seal “hunters” go out onto the ice floes in the waters off Eastern Canada, and bludgeon and hack seal pups to death for their skins. They crack open their tiny skulls with heavy clubs and hack them to death with a type of pickaxe called a hakapik. There is nowhere for the pups to hide and no means of escape. The ice is stained red with the pups’ blood as their mothers bellow and moan pitifully for their slaughtered babies. Not only is the killing savagely brutal, post-mortem surveys show that more than 40% of these helpless white balls of fluff are skinned while they are still alive.
The Canadian government refuses to acknowledge their part in the savage killing, but it is the Canadian Coast Guard that relay the seals’ locations to the killers, and Canadian Coast Guard cutters that break through the ice to lead the killers to their innocent prey.
Activists like Paul Watson and his organization, Sea Shepherd, have led the fight against the Canadian seal kill. To thwart the killers and make the seal pups’ fur undesirable to them, they stain the pups with henna dye, painting a red stripe down their backs. A dyed baby seal is a seal who will live to grow up.
To hide Canada’s complicity in the slaughter from the rest of the world, the Canadian government has gone so far as to pass a law called, with colossal irony, the “Seal Protection Act,” which does nothing to protect seals and makes witnessing the seal kill by civilians a criminal offense. Taking photos or videotaping the seal killers as they club and hack baby seals to death will land you in jail.
Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd are not deterred, and risk prison to record the brutal killing and share the images they capture with the world. As a direct result, the United States, Mexico, India, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Switzerland, and the 27 nations of the European Union have banned trade in seal products. Thanks to the activists’ bravery and leadership, the worldwide market for seal products is fast collapsing.
Yet, Canada is not the only nation still engaged in the slaughter of baby seals for their skins. Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, and Namibia are, too. Please urge them to stop the slaughter by leaving a message at the Facebook pages for all those nations’ American embassies and consulates.
Greenland (autonomous region of Denmark): https://www.facebook.com/DenmarkinUSA/
Sweden’s and Namibia’s embassies have no Facebook page, but you can contact them by email at:
Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!