Commercial Seal Clubbing: Why It Needs to Stop

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In the past ten years, over 2 million seals have been killed for their fur. This does not include the tens of thousands of seals who have been wounded by sealer’s clubs or rifles and escaped under the ice, only to succumb to their wounds and die.

-The Humane Society of the United States


Every year, along the icy Canadian coastlines of Newfoundland and Labrador, thousands of baby seals cry out in pain as their skulls are struck by clubs or hakapiks (long sticks with a hooked blade at one end). This gruesome murder occurs a few weeks after mama seals gave birth to their beautiful babies. Every spring, 2,000 to 6,000 Canadian fishermen kill tens of thousands of baby seals for their fur and sometimes for their oil.

Below is a line graph I made using information I got from HarpSeals.org. The quota for 1996 drastically increased, as did the number of Harp seals killed. Since then, the quota has slowly continued to go up. This year, the Canadian government set the highest quota to date: 468,200 harp, grey, and hooded seals are allowed to die at the hands of these cruel Canadian sealers. So far, 37,609 seal pups have been killed this year.

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* The # of seals killed only talks about Harp seals. This does not include the other types of seals (i.e Hood or Grey seals), although those seals were murdered too, although the numbers were other seals killed were not as large in amount. Also, this graph does not include seals that were ‘struck and lost’.

Reasons why the Seal Hunt should end:

1.) Do we really need seal fur? I know it makes a fashion statement but is that really worth the lives of hundreds of thousands of baby seals each year? I think not!

2.) Canadians hunt and kill baby seals. According to HSI, the Canadian government statistics say that 97 percent of the seals killed in the past five years have been less than three months of age, with a majority having been one month old or less! This doesn’t seem fair to me, especially considering these young creatures could have lived for 35 long happy years. But sadly, most of these baby seals have not even eaten their first meal or taken their first swim when the Canadian sealers come around to take their life away. Not only is this tragic, but it also makes surviving this terrible ordeal that much more difficult; their inability to swim means they have no escape route.

3.) For most people participating in the commercial seal hunt, seal clubbing is a second job for them; this means they have another full-time job. An economic analysis of the hunt done by a professor from the University Of Guelph revealed the hunt provides 100 – 150 full time jobs a year, while thousands of others hunt seals as a second means of income. Those who don’t have other jobs can probably find more work living in the city. Why must they live in in the rural, small towns, with only a few job opportunities to offer besides cruelly slaughtering baby seals? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

4.) An analysis conducted by a panel of veterinarians showed that around 40% of the seals were actually skinned alive (Harp Seals). Most likely, this occurs because hunters are careless and do not check the seal thoroughly enough to make sure the seal is dead before skinning it. Although sealers say the slaughter of these babies is performed in a humane manner, the video below shows their statement is inaccurate.

WARNING!: Footage is graphic.

 

5.) The number of Harp seals has drastically declined, not only because of the slaughter, but also because global warming has melted the ice floes. Harp seals are ice dependent animals and need that ice to give birth to their pups. The ice also needs to remain intact until the pups are strong enough to survive in the water. The climate change resulted in a decline of sea ice off the eastern coast of Canada. So these poor seals not only have to worry about humans slaughtering their brothers and sisters, but now they have to fight global warming shrinking their birthing grounds.

6.) Most of the time, the seal meat is left on the ice to rot away. This is because most countries find seal meat undesirable and for that reason, the price for their meat is very low and typically not worth the effort. Even Newfoundlanders find the meat too fatty and distasteful. Therefore, only small amounts of the seal’s meat is processed and used in any manner.

7.) If you are a Canadian, you should care about this cause a great deal. The money that keeps this program running comes from out of your pockets! The government uses tax payers’ money to fund things such as boats, weapons and many other things used in the seal hunt. The money also goes to promote and advertise the seal hunt. If you don’t want your hard earned money to go to the governments’ effort help kill baby seals, it’s time that you do something about it!

 

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This subject makes me disappointed with how the Canadian Government is being run. I mean, all animal abuse makes me sad but learning about the slaughter of these beautiful creatures affected me the most. It seems I’m not the only one who is deeply effected by the whole process. Most people around the world don’t approve of Canada’s decision to keep the hunt going. It just bothers me that these cute babies have to die for something we don’t even fucking need! Nobody NEEDS a coat or hat made out of seal fur.

Watch a video or look at a photo of a baby seal; then think that in weeks time, their life will come to a tragic and painful end… for what? To be made into a fashion accessory for us humans to wear. Does that seem fair to you? I’m suddenly beginning to realize why PETA throws blood at someone wearing a fur coat. That fur coat looks better on a baby seal than it EVER will on ANY human being.

How could you kill such an adorable and innocent creature? Canada, this needs to stop!

 

A Positive Looking Future for Seals?

I obviously don’t live in Canada and I don’t have the best updates about the hunt. In fact, I got all of my information from only about three different websites (all of them are reliable sites with great information!). On May 13 2011, HarpSeals.org stated that the sealers did not feel like the hunt was worth participating in because sealers no longer made a huge profit from the hunt. This is because there are not many buyers for seal pelts due to the outstanding efforts of dozens of different organizations that have been campaigning for years to stop the hunt. The number of seals killed also went down because the European Parliament agreed to ban seal imports from Canada; this was a HUGE success for protestors because the EU was one of the biggest buyers of seal products.

Another reason why the season isn’t going great for the sealers is because of the deteriorating condition of the ice floes. Usually, hunters can walk out onto the ice to club the baby seals. This year however, the ice is too dangerous for sealers to walk on. Sadly, the shrinking ice floes are also a problem for pregnant seal mothers-to-be. These female seals need a solid place to give birth to their pups, since the babies cannot swim until they are at least 2 months old.

Hopefully, the condition of ice floes improve for these animals by the time seal slaughtering has been eliminated from the world. It is my hope that we can get rid of this cruel and inhumane slaughter of these beautiful creatures as soon as humanly possible.

What you can do to help:

Photo taken by Nigel Barker

  • Boycott Canadian Seafood
  • Boycott Canadian Tourism
  • Send emails and/or letters to Politicians and Businesses urging them to help put an end to the seal hunt. Visit HarpSeals.org to get a full list of politicians and businesses that you should contact; it could make all the difference. The more people/businesses you email, the better chances we have to end the slaughter of these innocent creatures once and for all.
  • Inform others about what happens to these seals.
  • Don’t buy anything with real fur. The demand for fur is contributing to this catastrophic massacre in Canada. Anyone wearing the fur of minks, rabbits, foxes, or any other kind of animal is responsible for creating this demand. I really don’t understand why people want to cuddle up in a dead animal… humans are so weird. Faux fur looks and feels just as real plus it is usually much cheaper.

Visit these websites for more

information:

HarpSeals.org A charitable organization that seeks a permanent end to the massacres of harp seals in Canada. They promote the boycott of Canadian seafood to pressure sealers to call an end to the killing. I got most of my information from their website and I did not cover nearly as much information as I had hoped so to view the things I missed, click here.

PETA: Canada’s ShameI know what you’re thinking, and I agree with you: PETA is a crazy organization. Personally, I absolutely love them for their crazy protests and over-the-top posters and signs; they really are making a huge contribution to animal rights when they do these sort of things. Even when people talk badly about them, the organization is still getting more recognition because people bother to speak out about them, whether it’s a bad opinion or a good one!

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The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)The IFAW was created in 1969 to confront the cruel slaughter of harp and hooded seals. Today, the IFAW is the world’s leading international animal welfare organization, and is also one of the largest animal welfare organizations in Canada! They also help improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world. This is a great organization & I highly recommend visiting their site as well!

The Humane Society: International This organization is one of the only animal protection organization that is internationally helping to protect all animals. This includes animals in laboratories, farm animals, wildlife (seals), and even companion animals. A large branch of this organization is the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States). Both try to inform the world about the seal slaughter in Canada. In fact, this is where I first learned about the whole thing. If it were not for the HSI or the HSUS, this post would not be here today.

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The Happiest Chickens are Free-Range

Wendy's Free-Range Chickens

Many people do not know the difference between free range eggs and cage-free eggs. Let me explain: Cage-free is a term that the egg industry likes to use ONLY to make it SOUND like their layer hens are humanely raised when, in reality, they are treated just about the same as any battery-caged hen. Even though these hens are technically cage-free, it doesn’t mean they get more space to run around and be chickens. They are still cramped together in a small room, their beaks are still cut off at birth, and the males are still slaughtered nearly minutes after hatching. Free-range eggs are a totally different story.

If you go to a store in search of eggs from humanely treated hens, then you are sadly out of luck. Free-range eggs cannot be found in any grocery store (and if you know of one, please let me know in the comments below). The biggest difference between free-range eggs and cage-free eggs is the treatment of the chickens. Free-range chickens (notice, I say chickens because the males are typically not slaughtered at birth) are given space to roam freely, their beaks are not cut off at birth, and they are free to do what chickens are instinctively born to do.

Bantam Hen

Chickens are born with an instinct to:

  • Forage for food – Believe it or not, chickens are omnivores- they eat vegetables as well as bugs. Battery caged hens are denied the privilege to forage for food and most cage-free hens are still kept indoors, which means they can’t feel the dirt on their feet or forage for bugs.
  • Nest – Most hens have a strong urge to lay their eggs in a private place. Sometimes they will even go without food and water for days to search for a secret place to nest. Battery caged hens are denied the access or the space to sit on their eggs. Hens often go crazy without this one simple “privilege” because their instinct to mother their eggs is so intense. Cage-free hens are not provided with the privacy or room to nest either. Even though they do have more space than a battery cage hen, this instinct is still not met.
  • Dustbathe – Dustbathing for chickens is like taking a bath for us. It keeps their feathers clean and healthy and also gets rid of unwanted pests.
  • Perch – All chickens descended from the Red Jungle Fowl. This breed of bird often sleeps high up in the trees to avoid predators; also because perching is a natural instinct. Today’s modern chickens still have that instinct which is why most free-range chickens are provided with perches. When chickens are unable to perch, they often become more aggressive, more prone to develop foot damage, and some even develop osteoporosis. In a battery cage, hens will sometimes stand on top of one another to try and fulfill their urge to perch.
  • Explore – Chickens spend 50% of their time exploring, foraging and scratching. These animals are curious creatures and enjoy doing something to fulfill their boredom.

Mama hen, Eddie, and the baby chicks take a dirtbath together

Last summer, my neighbor Wendy bought some baby chicks. She built her own coop to suit her chickens’ needs and to say the least, these chickens live a good life. They are 100% free-range chickens and they get out of their coop at least once a day (that is, if there is no snow on the ground). Wendy’s coop isn’t all that large but all of her chickens have room to stretch their wings and walk around inside. Most of the time, the chickens are outside roaming around the yard, foraging for small bugs to eat, and taking dirt baths. The family’s dog, Striper, protects the chickens from getting eaten by predators like bears and fisher cats, which are always running around our neighborhood.

Wendy and her family name every chicken that they get and Wendy can tell which chicken is which. Since it’s hard to tell the difference between a female and a male chick, the family gives the chickens a female name. For example, the white and fluffy chicken (in the photo above) was left out to die in the middle of the road when Wendy found him and rescued him. Wendy first named him Edith because she couldn’t tell if he was a hen or a rooster. When she heard him crow, she and the family changed the name to Eddie.

Last week, I was walking home from school when my neighbor, who was outside at the time, called me over to see the baby chicks that had hatched the previous week. The three baby chicks, the mama bird, and Eddie were all taking a dustbath together. I had asked my neighbor before about writing a blog about her chickens, so I decided now would be a perfect time to take photos. I ran home, grabbed my camera and started taking picture’s of Wendy’s chickens. Her chickens are a perfect example of how these animals SHOULD be treated.

Penelope’s Story

Penelope

When I went over my neighbor’s house to take photos of her chickens, she pointed out Penelope. This hen has been through a lot more than other chickens have been through and she is lucky to be alive. Over Facebook, I asked Wendy if she could tell me Penelope’s Story. I was surprised by how much effort Wendy put into the story and I decided to copy and paste it straight from there. I’ve only made a few small grammatical changes but otherwise, this is completely in her own words. Enjoy!

It was back in September and I was looking for some more laying hens on Craigslist when I came upon 1 year old laying hens for sale; $3 a piece at a place up in Orange, MA. Actually, it was a fairly nice horse farm right off Route 2. One of those places that gives lessons and boards horses. They even had an indoor riding ring. The horse barn was old looking but very clean and well kept. The horses were mostly outside and they all looked real good.”

“The owner’s daughter I think it was came out to show me the chickens. Behind the nice barn and the indoor riding ring was a shed and there were some bunnies in hutches and a lot of junk and the smell was awful in the front of the shed but at the back of the shed, it look like the metal skeleton of a plant nursery (half round shape if that makes sense). Instead of clear plastic it had black plastic stretched over it but the plastic was really worn out so there were holes everywhere in the plastic where the weather could get in but not enough sun could get through to evaporate the wet ground so it was muddy and smelly. There were about 100 chickens in there mostly hens, some roosters all debeaked so I assumed they were all ex battery cage hens. I don’t know the story about the roosters that were in there; didn’t really make sense. There were also about 4 ducks in there.”

There was a small pile of dead chickens that had been dealt with enough that they were all in the same spot but not removed from the area. Like someone just grabbed them as they died and threw them in the corner. There were 2 chickens that had obviously seen light under the walls and had tried to crawl through and had gotten stuck. They were still alive and brought it to the girl’s attention. (My guess she was in her 20’s) She said ‘Oh I wouldn’t take those they will probably die anyway.’ ”

“There was NO FOOD in the food bowl and I think the only water in the water bowl was what had rained through the ceiling of the enclosure so there was not much water in there to drink. It was gross. It was thick with mud and heavy with the smell of feces and death. There were no nesting boxes so any hen that might have been healthy enough to lay an egg would have to do it wherever. The chickens looked shell-shocked for lack of a better word. I would pick a hen and watch it’s behavior for a few minutes and if it looked okay I would try and catch it.”

“I spent about 15 minutes in this enclosure and made some comments about the conditions these poor things had to deal with and she told me it was her father’s thing. He would pick up these chickens and transport them and he had had this particular batch for a while trying to get rid of them on Craigslist. It was her Dad’s thing. She had someone go get a bale of shavings to spread around probably because I was bitching about the conditions the hens were kept in. I didn’t have much money on me so I could afford to take 2 of the hens. I popped them in the box I brought, tied the lid down, paid the girl and left.”

Penelope

“I contacted MSPCA and reported the place. I named one hen Penelope (Penny) because she’s the copper color of a penny. The other one I named Clarabelle. Penny ate with gusto and started doing well quickly. Clarabelle did not do so well. She didn’t have her sister’s appetite. Clarabelle was very cuddly though and several times a day I would pick her up and pop her into my coat and she loved that. When the weather was getting colder, it was nice and warm in my jacket. I had her almost a week. I had brought her in the house and had her snuggled in my lap and she was napping when about an hour later she stretched out, released the contents of her bowels and died right there in my lap.”

“She probably didn’t have much of a chance. She was really weak but she was a very sweet chicken. On one hand, I feel bad that I couldn’t save her but on the other hand she didn’t die in the mud and get thrown into the pile of muddy anonymous chickens in the corner of that chicken hellhole.”

“Penelope has continued to do well all winter. Taking in an emaciated chicken as the cold weather sets in was probably not the best idea but I added fats into her diet to help her stay warm and not lose weight. She has actually gained weight. She looks fantastic. She is now laying an egg almost every day.”

“Honestly, when I got her, I did not ever expect to see an egg from her. She and her “sister” were in such rough shape. She was extremely shy when she first got here and would hide in the corners of the coop. She did not know how to be a chicken at all. There are certain things a chicken “likes” to do naturally. Perching is one of them. Dust bathing is another joy that helps coat the skin with fine dirt and prevent parasites. Chickens love to dust bathe.”

Penelope walking away

“It is not uncommon to see 8 or 9 chickens flopping around flapping and flicking the dirt all over them then stretching out in the sun. They will even lay there upside down with their feet in the air. IT is pure enjoyment for them. Scratching the soil and pecking at bugs of worms or whatever is also totally natural and something chickens naturally love to do. All my chickens do these behaviors. Penny did none of these behaviors for months. She was a battery cage hen obviously, her beak is clipped. I have never done that to any of my chickens. It is a cruel practice that takes place at about 10 days old. It keeps penned up battery cage chickens from pecking each other.”

“The first time I noticed Penny exhibit a normal chicken behavior was maybe early November? She found a nice pit of dirt and was joyously flopping around flinging dirt all over herself. She was taking a dust bath and I was so happy for her. She really is something special. In January, I walked into the coop and found my Penny tucked into a nesting box. She was laying an egg!!!! She lays the darkest color brown eggs of all my chickens so I know when it’s hers. She lays one at least every other day.”

“I think the fact that her beak has been trimmed makes it difficult for her to pick things up off the ground. All my other chickens look forward to when I toss out some scratch grain on the ground. It has cracked corn and oats and stuff. When I scatter this stuff out for my chickens, Penny comes running over to me now. I scoop a whole cup of it for her and bend down and let her have as much as she wants. Eating it out of a cup is easier for her. Penny’s beak doesn’t work as well at picking things up as all my other chickens so having a nice deep cup of it makes it easier for her. Penny is pretty special. Her speak is very distinct and I know it’s her even when my back is turned. She is one hen who has gone to the very worst of conditions to the best conditions and I really think she is very happy now.”

For people living in the city, I understand free-range eggs are hard to come by. If you have relatives that live in a rural area, ask if they have any small farms living nearby that sell eggs. Then the next time you visit those relatives, just stop by and pay for a two or so dozens. Supporting the small local farms can make a BIG difference! If you have the option to buy from a local farm (one that will allow you to see the chickens’ conditions), then please don’t buy your eggs from a super market! This is one way we can send the message to big corporations that we don’t like the way animals in their facilities are being treated. Hopefully these companies care about what the consumer wants (most of them do, because that’s the only way they can make a profit) and makes changes to fit our needs. Urban areas are tough to find small farms (obviously). Unfortunately, for those living in the city, there aren’t too many places for you to find free-range eggs. But for those who live in a small town, you can easily find friends or neighbors that own chickens who would be willing to share with you.

Conclusion to the Egg Topic:

  • Inform others about the abuse battery caged hens must endure to make sure you have a side of scrambled eggs are made every morning.
  • Play Farm Rescue on Facebook to find out more information I did not discuss.
  • Find a neighbor or friend who has chickens and ask if you can buy from them. Some people will even be willing to give them to you for free!
  • If you don’t know anyone with chickens but you have a yard then buy chickens of your own! I would suggest this to someone with time to spare because chickens (especially the number my neighbor has) are a large responsibility to maintain and take care of. There’s also a lot of money involved with buying feed, keeping the chicken coop suitable for the chickens (which means buying heaters/coolers), building a coop, ect. So I don’t recommend this option unless you are fully willing to take on all of the responsibilities needed to run a coop of your own.
  • Read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s a great book about Factory Farming and Foer spends a good deal of time discussing the treatment of chickens.
  • Don’t believe what you read on labels. Most have low standards on what “humane” is, especially when it comes to chickens and the egg industry.
  • Check out my favorite websites to find out more information.

The way all hens should be able to lay their eggs!

Next Discussion Topic…?

My family informed me that I need to move on from the topic of chickens and onto a different animal issue. The reason I spend so much time on chickens is because they are, in my opinion, one of the most abused animals in the United States. I haven’t even discussed chickens wasted for their flesh (broilers) yet! I’ll get to that one of these days but I think my family is right; I do need to talk about a variety of other animals. Comment below if you have any issues you would like me to discuss in the future.