April 3, 2007
By Kristin Hegazy
|Humane Society Legislative Fund staff gather at|
headquarters in Washington, D.C. Left to right: Executive
Director Sara Amundson, Executive Vice President Wayne
Pacelle, Development Director Melinda Fox and President
On April 1, 2007, nearly 1,000 activists in 32 states plus Washington, D.C. and Ontario, Canada attended Party Animals Protect Seals house parties on the eve of the start of the annual Canadian seal hunt—the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. From Maine to Oregon, from Florida to California and from many states in between—New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Idaho, Montana, Kansas and our first party ever in South Dakota—determined citizens came together to support the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) and send a message to the Canadian fishing industry and the governments of Canada and the United States that the seal hunt must end.
Party Hosts Bring Advocates Together
In Winter Park, Florida, Bryan and Carla Wilson hosted their fifth Party Animals event. "We felt the Protect Seals party gave people hope that maybe they hadn't had before that we are making change and we will succeed in our quest to end this cruel hunt," wrote the Wilsons.
Robin Budin threw a party for the second time in Hollywood, Florida, "jumping on board as soon as it was announced" and emailing all her friends to ask for donations. "For some reason, protecting seals hit me a couple of years ago when I saw what goes on there and I wanted a chance to help," she said.
In New York City, William Cassius D'Argento Divney hosted an event which, as one of his guests commented, helped "put together a network of support that is growing and getting stronger." Reports William, "We had a woman bring a large print of her seal sculpture which was featured at an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan for several weeks and we managed to find homes for two cats who needed to be adopted urgently."
Euclid, Ohio animal advocate Susan Sedenik arranged for guests to hear from local activists and officials including Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich speak on state and federal laws concerning animals. "These events bring people together and it is a chance to talk about what can be done by everyday citizens when it comes to animals and more humane legislation," said Susan.
|With mom Andi assisting, John Bernat|
takes first steps toward saving seals.
A Nationwide Call to Action
A highlight of the evening for everyone was the nationwide conference call (mp3) with special guests HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle speaking from HSLF headquarters, and Director of Wildlife Issues, Humane Society International (Canada) Rebecca Aldworth joining in from Newfoundland. Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, singer Nellie McKay was unable to make the call, but later sent her comments: "The Canadian seal hunt is a tragedy, a disgrace not only to the people who perpetrate and profit off of this slaughter, but to those who allow it to continue. I have vowed not to perform in Canada until this slaughter is stopped, and I thank the Humane Society for working to bring an end to this atrocity."
Wayne energized grassroots participants by pointing out how absolutely vital they were to the success of the seals campaign. "We will never win these battles unless we have engaged constituents and supporters," he said. "It's all of us working collectively that allows us to magnify our power to make the difference."
He encouraged party attendees to remain dedicated and keep the pressure on despite the long haul of this campaign, pointing out a number of recent victories for animals which happened only after years or even decades of continued struggle. "The Canadian seal slaughter is a tough battle," he said, "but we knew when we decided to take it on that this could be a multi-year fight… we have to stick with it…I am absolutely convinced that we are going to win."
Wayne continued, "It takes a small, determined group to change anything and that's what we are, the folks who are on this call…you are the dedicated core."
Wayne then turned the call over to Rebecca Aldworth, leader of the Protect Seals team, who is bearing witness to the hunt this year for the ninth consecutive time. She described her feelings as she prepared to document the slaughter yet again: "It's really hard for me to understand how something so brutal can occur in a place that is this beautiful," she said, "and it's hard for me to understand why the sealers can't see what I do and what Wayne does… we see something that's so stunningly beautiful that it is actually life-changing, and to know that seal hunters going to that same place see profit and death, is very hard to comprehend."
It was difficult to listen to Rebecca's description of the cruelty suffered by the animals. To her, the worse aspect of the cruelty is the skinning alive of the helpless, innocent seal pups by hunters who are in a hurry to kill as efficiently as possible: "For this reason above any other, this hunt simply must stop," she implored.
|Guests at the HSLF headquarters party enjoyed a|
vegan spread donated by Whole Foods and Sticky
Rebecca called the decision by the Canadian government to go ahead with a kill quota of 270,000 despite the drowning of thousands of seal pups after an early ice melt as a result of global warming "beyond comprehension."
No observation permits were issued for the first phase of the hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the next phase begins in the north on April 4 and the Rebecca and her team will be present, as they plan to be every year until the seal hunt ends forever. "We are the eyes of the world on the ice floes and we take that responsibility very seriously," Rebecca stated.
As the call drew to a close, Wayne and Rebecca urged activists to continue campaigning every day that that hunt is taking place this month:
Help pass S. Res. 118
: Call your U.S. Senator via the Capitol switchboard number at (202) 224-3121 and urge that Congress pass this bill to condemn the hunt when they return from recess April 10. "Canadian politicians care what their counterparts in the United States think," said Rebecca, "and this is an incredibly powerful statement for the U.S. Senate to make."
Hold Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper accountable for the cruelty he is permitting. Call him every day during the hunt at (613) 992-4211 and tell him the world is watching and that that public opinion is against him.
Boycott Canadian seafood: The $3 billion dollar industry Canadian seafood exports into the U.S. means American consumers have the economic power to make a difference. Already, over 2,000 restaurants, grocery stores and other seafood distributors have joined and Canadian exports to the U.S. of snow crabs alone have dropped by 36 percent since March 2005. We hope activists will sign the pledge to boycott Canadian seafood and ask businesses in their area to do the same.
It is only due to exposure of the hunt by activists like those attending the Protect Seals parties that the world is aware of what is going on and the Canadian government is feeling the pressure to halt the needless slaughter, Wayne told seals supporters, adding "Thank you for your courage; thank you for confronting these people."
|Partygoer and advocate Vicki Stevens|
makes an online donation to help HSLF's
lobbying efforts to end the seal hunt.
Rebecca, too, expressed her appreciation: "It helps a lot to know that we're not up here alone, that each and every one of you is standing with us."
As participants signed off, partygoers at HSLF's Washington, D.C. headquarters shouted "don't buy while seals die!"
This year, we have more hope than ever before that we can put an end to this senseless slaughter. "I want everyone on this call to know," said Rebecca, "I've been working on this campaign for a decade, and we are so very close to winning."
Countries are closing their doors to seal products and sealers are being paid half this year what they earned last year. The boycott is working. We have been putting pressure on the Canadian government on multiple fronts—economically, in the media, via phone calls and emails and in the form of the proposed Senate resolution. They cannot ignore us any longer. Please join us today to make this cruel hunt history. Find out more and see how you can help at ProtectSeals.org.
Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 519 C Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.