Seal Pup Slaughter Begins

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As the Seal pup slaughter is set to begin, The International Humane Society and the Humane Society United States (HSUS) have initiated an on-going effort to stop the barbaric massacre on the Canadian Ice Floes.

 Nigel Barker, celebrity fashion photographer and panel judge on the hit reality television show, America’s Next Top Model, has been both supporter and spokesperson (2008-2009) for the Humane Society United States and following in the footsteps of former Beatles founder, Paul McCartney, Nigel (which he prefers) plans has continued to use his celebrity access and talent to bring to the forefront the graphic images and violent depictions in this war of man verses animal.

Having an opportunity to interview him on several occasions the following is our exchange on both his and the HSUS efforts to combat animal atrocities.

Janet Walker: Why is this effort, Save the Seals, important now?

Nigel Barker: I think it has always been important. It is specifically important now because I think we’re at a turning point where something tangible can be done particularly right now with the EU considering a ban on Seal Products.

Janet Walker: What do you mean, ‘With the EU considering a ban on Seal Products?’

Nigel Barker: Over the past ten years a multitude of animal rights organizations have been working on lobbying various governments trying to get results. The imports of seal products are already banned in both Mexico and the United States and several other countries.  But, we’ve had no luck getting the Canadian government to ban it themselves and so the next step was to stop the actual demand. We’ve been lobbying the EU heavily for the past three years and lobbying countries within the EU for the past ten which is why individual member nations have already adopted bans?

Janet Walker: How did you get involved with this commendable effort?

Nigel Barker: Initially, the HSUS approached me. I’ve been an animal lover all my life and I’m English and the English are a nation of animal lovers.  Also, it’s a subject that I have always felt strongly about. I’ve been aware of the Seal hunt since I was a child. When the HSUS approached me and they asked me if I would like to be involved and if it was something I could do, I thought it was a fantastic idea.

Especially, and obviously, as Paul McCartney was the previous spokesperson and he had a certain demographic, I felt that I could offer something different. The show I work on, America’s Next Top Model, plays in marathon sessions and the celebrity I’ve gained is with a different audience. The show, ANTM, plays in 123 countries, has a global audience of over 100million viewers per week. Obviously, and without stating, it has a large appeal to the youth on mass and so my idea and the HSUS’ idea was to enroll me to appeal to the youth on mass.

The idea was to say look this is no longer the dark ages we are not in a medieval arena where we have to go around and club creatures to death and shoot them for their furs. We don’t do that to our domestic animals. We don’t go around clubbing our domestic animals to death. That manner and method of slaughter was ended in the 1950’s.

The problem with the method the sealers use to murder these animals is that it is not a guarantee that the seal will be killed prior to skinning. In an independent scientific study in 2001 veterinarian scientists found that by looking at the carcasses’ and studying the skulls of the seals killed that it could not be determined in 42% of the cases if they were dead or consciences at the time of skinning.

So, essentially, the animals are being skinned alive. That kind of brutality is totally unnecessary, uncalled for and quite frankly in contempt of the animal’s existence.

I expected to be completed with our interview after these three questions and much to my pleasant surprise Nigel continued to discuss, frankly, his opinion as well as the scientific opinions of the HSUS.

Global Warming, The Seal Hunt and The Actual Damage

With the eco-system already imbalanced by the effects of Global Warming each year the Canadian eco-system suffers an additional blow with the ice floe melting, of what was formerly solid ice, at a rate of 20 to 25 miles inland. This Global Warming effect causes an additional 270,000 seals to drown prior to the hunt.

The Canadian government has set a quota, the allowable by law number, of seals that can be slaughtered in the hunt and astonishingly it is less than the numbers that die due to the causes of Global Warming. 250,000 of the herd face the fate of the sealers. The total effect of both global warming and the seal hunt raise the numbers of the herd lost by 500,000 per season or double the quota issued by the Canadian government. At this rate, the seal herds should be near endangered relatively soon. 

As we continued, the interview turned toward the more graphic and unpleasant facts surrounding the methods used for slaughtering the seal pups. The thought of murdering these animals represents what I believe to be cruelty to animals and a simple solution to this would be an arrest for cruelty to animals.

Janet Walker: Why can’t the seal hunters simply be arrested for cruelty to animals?

Nigel Barker:  According to the law there are certain ways that the seal pup can be killed. They can be killed by clubbing or bludgeoning, or with a hacapic which is a stick with a spike on it, or with a gun. It seems according to the information that the adage “where there is a will there is a way” applies to the manipulations that have occurred over the last twenty years in order to re-write the law to allow the seal slaughter to continue at any cost.

The manipulations to the law, re-writing legislation, to accommodate both sides of a hot button issue are a common tactic at any level of government. This issue is no different. While the majority of the global audience that Nigel and ANTM reaches may not be aware the HSUS efforts to ban the seal hunt have a storied history with many successes.

In the 1980’s, the commercial hunt of white coat harp seal (seals younger than twelve days old who have not yet begun to molt) was banned. This initially ended the hunt but the Canadian government over time developed a new market for the pelts of older baby seals that have begun to molt. Legislation continues to be re-written, almost every season, to address the voices of protest and still maintain the hunt.

Under Canadian law the age of the animal is not protected or considered off limits or endangered.  Explaining the legalities, he added, “you’re allowed (under law) to kill a seal after it is twelve days old. I know it is not a white coat pup because at twelve days they begin shed their white fur. But twelve days old is certainly not an adult. 97% of the seals in general that are killed during the hunt are under the age of three months old. That’s a baby by anyone’s standard. To argue that point is ridiculous.

Janet Walker: How do you expect and how are these individuals you are associated with through the HSUS going to launch their new campaign?”

According to the HSUS website there are a number of small initiatives that the individual can be a part of and receive free gifts for their participation in this effort.

Nigel Barker: The big thing one can do is Boycott Canadian seafood. If we put pressure on the Canadian Seafood Industry, the Canadian Department of Oceans and Fishery has said that they will ban the seal hunt if the Canadian Fisheries ask. The only way that this will happen is by bringing pressure on the seafood industry as a whole. The most effective means of protest and pressure is simply not consuming Canadian seafood.  

The message I try and get out is basically ‘do something in your life. Not just talk about it. But get up and do something. Actions speak louder than words.’ That’s the message that I try and get out as much as possible.”

The interview revealed a commitment to changing a course of action that Nigel Barker and The HSUS believe is an atrocity. The life change other than the “celebrity cause of the month” was evident in his depth of knowledge, honesty about early pursuits that sculpted his thought process and his ability to use his global presence to bring about knowledge that can set people on the path to change. It was refreshing to interview someone who has such a global presence and find that he was without pretension and very generous with his time and commitment to this cause.

For more information regarding the Humane Society United States:  www.hsus.org

For more information on Nigel Barker: www.nigelbarker.tv or www.studionb.com

For more information on America’s Next Top Model: www.cwtv.com/shows/americas-next-top-model

 

** Seal Hunt image photographed by Nigel Barker

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