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Input on 10-meter Observer Distance from Seal Hunt

February 15, 2007

Subject: DFO request for public input re 10-meter observer distance from seal hunt


I am responding to your invitation for comments on the suitability of the 10-meter distance that observers of the seal hunt must keep from the killing ice. In preparation, I measured distances of 10, 20 and 30 meters along my sidewalk. I placed my rough collie dog at what would be ground zero and walked back to the three measured distances.

At 10 meters, an observer could possibly tell whether a seal pup had been killed outright, if the view were not obstructed by sealers. I could not add sound to my test, as I don�t know if injured seals utter a death cry, or moan as they lie dying. Television clips have shown the mothers crying over their dead or dying pups. Even then, viewers are warned that what they are about to see is disturbing. Perhaps that is why viewers are spared the dying moments of the juvenile seals, which would be even more abhorrent.

At 20 meters observers would not be able to see the impact of the blows on the seal pups.Although the pups cannot yet swim to escape death, they do try to waddle from danger. If, after a blow the seal lies still, it could be dead or it could be dying. Last year, I saw a TV clip showing a seal pup being clubbed repeatedly before it stopped trying to escape. The body of this pup was then picked up by a hook at the end of the club and flung into a waiting boat. Obviously, the man wielding the club was not going to take his victim�s pulse before he hooked its body.

At 30 meters, observers might just as well go home. Perhaps they could still see the aftermath of the slaughter, the spilled blood on ice � red and white, our national colours.

As to safety, I believe observers should receive police protection. They, after all, are not armed, while the sealers, likely stressed by their unsavory occupation, could easily swing at observers. At the very least, whatever distance your department has deemed to be appropriate, it should apply to the sealers as well. If observers must keep a 10 meter distance from the "sealing activity", the sealers also must keep 10 meters from the observers. If the distance is made to apply only to observers, sealers may be tempted to rush at observers and then blame the observers for breaching the distance.

The best solution would be to call a halt to the seal hunt altogether.

Helen Schiele,

Kelowna, B.C.

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