This article will have no visuals, because the images are too disturbing to show.
A viral video posted to Facebook earlier this week shows three fisherman in Yarmouth County, Canada, who have a very young white seal pup in their boat — likely only a few days old.
Very young seal pups have white coats, and when they do, it is illegal to kill them. But these fishermen were apparently unfazed by this regulation.
“They’re sort of taunting it, teasing it, poking it in the face with a fishing buoy,” Sheryl Fink, director of Canadian wildlife campaigns for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), told The Dodo. “You can see one man kicking it in the head with his rubber boot and just sort of tormenting this young, terrified animal.” You can also hear laughter.
The pup in the video is obviously distressed and trying to escape, Fink observed. “It’s not too graphic but it is disturbing,” Fink said. “It’s complete disrespect for a very terrified young animal.”
Even though the killing doesn’t happen on camera, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reports that the seal pup died. In the video, you can hear one man say, “OK, let’s kill it.”
The video, which was posted on Mark Allan MacKenzie’s Facebook page, has since been removed. MacKenzie, Jay Alexander Jenkins and Brendon Dougles James Porter are facing charges after people alerted the DFO. MacKenzie has 17 prior convictions, Fink said.
“Thankfully, in this case, concerned community members reported the video to authorities,” Kerry Branon, media relations manager for IFAW, told The Dodo. A local activist, Caitlin Buchanan, is keeping the pressure on the DFO by launching a campaign, encouraging people to call the DFO offices and tell officials to revoke the men’s fishing licenses. Locally, people are also holding a rally outside the DFO office.
But Fink says that this cruelty isn’t even that extreme. Every year during the commercial seal hunts, which she’s witnessed firsthand for 12 years, similar scenarios occur.
“We do see this kind of behavior at the commercial seal hunt,” Fink said, adding that she’s seen hunters pick up the animals, posing for selfies, before taking them by the hind flippers and chucking them onto the ice. “Not to paint all fishermen with the same brush, but I think it speaks to the lack of respect for seals and marine wildlife. These are sentiment animals. They can experience fear, they can suffer.”
IFAW is pushing for the fishermen to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And even that may not be enough. “We actually want them to improve animal cruelty laws in Canada so that cruelty to animals can be prosecuted more fully in the future,” Fink said.
Fink fears that the penalties for tormenting this pup to death will be “very weak.”
A media officer for the DFO told The Dodo that the court date for this case is scheduled for April 3.
In the meantime, other seal pups are growing up, and will soon be in danger. “As soon as they have shed their white pelts in a few weeks, these seals will be the target of Canada’s commercial seal hunt. It is expected that the Canadian government will allow 60,000 grey seals to be killed this year,” Branon said.
“Flood the DFO phone lines,” the campaign page reads. “If they know people are outraged, they will have no choice but to act.”
To voice your concern, you can call or email the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic LeBlanc at 613-992-1020 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn how to help end the commercial seal trade here.