Save your cans and bottles for a good cause.
This weekend, Oct. 5 and 6, Liverpool High School senior Kerry Bartholomae and several of her classmates will be conducting a drive for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the largest animal welfare and conservation charities in the world. One of its most well-publicized efforts is an attempt to end the Canadian seal hunt, which has been ongoing since its founding more than 40 years ago.
“About 300,000 baby seals are clubbed to death each year,” Bartholomae said. “I feel not enough people know about the cruelty Canadians inflict on the seals. I read about it online when I was about 14, and I was horrified.”
Bartholomae, who is the vice president of the National Honor Society, said she has wanted to take action to raise awareness since then. Now she feels she’s in a position to do so.
The drive will take place throughout the day on both Oct. 5 and 6. Though the group is made up of NHS members, the drive is not an NHS-sponsored activity. The group, which numbers about 10 so far, will be collecting in Pinegate North and South and Fairway East, as well as businesses along Route 31. They’ve also secured a donation from the Syracuse law firm Marris and Bartholomae; anyone interested in making a monetary donation can contact Bartholomae at email@example.com or 727-0970. Donations can also be mailed to 8431 Sugar Pine Circle, Liverpool, NY 13090. All proceeds will go to IFAW.
IFAW was founded in 1969 as part of an effort to stop the hunt for seals, an effort that led to a ban on the imports of whitecoat harp seals and blueback hooded seals in Europe in the 1980s. However, in the late 1990s, the Canadian government actually stepped up its promotion of the slaughter of harp seals.
According to IFAW’s website, the worst part of the seal hunts isn’t the wholesale slaughter of seals; it’s the manner in which they’re killed. During the hunts, seal pups, most too young to escape, are either shot or hit with a spiked wooden club called a hakapik. Humane killing is put on the back burner and, instead, the speed of the hunt is made a priority. Sometimes as many as 150,000 baby seals are killed in two days. And with speed at such a high priority, many are left wounded; when rifles are shot from moving boats at escaping seals or when the animals are chased across the ice pans with hunters swinging their hakapiks, it is unlikely a seal will be stunned effectively with a single blow or shot. Instead, animals are left wounded and terrified, lingering on the ice in pain, suffering and distress. Some seals are struck and lost.
The barbaric practice continues along Canada’s East Coast, though international pressure to end it grows; in August 2010, the European Parliament and Council of the European Union’s ban of the trade in commercial seal products went into effect. The ban prohibits the importation, exportation, and sale of all commercial harp and hooded seal products in the European Union, and marked an enormous triumph in the battle to end the cruel and unnecessary slaughter of seals. Another major victory was won in fall of 2011 when the largest market for seal products slammed shut after the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation banned the import and export of harp seal skins. According to the Government of Canada, Russia imported 90 percent of Canada’s seal pelts.
“Today, Canada’s commercial seal hunt costs more to support than it earns. Fewer hunters are participating, and commercial sealing appears to be in steady decline,” IFAW’s website said. “But until Canada’s commercial seal hunt ends forever, we will fight against it: documenting its cruelty, presenting our evidence to the authorities, researching, educating, lobbying for legislative change and working to shut down markets for seal products.”
IFAW’s work against the Canadian seal hunts represents just one of many efforts the organization has undertaken on behalf of animal welfare worldwide. IFAW has projects in more than 40 countries, reducing commercial exploitation of wild animals, protecting wildlife habitats and providing emergency relief to animals in distress.
Bartholomae said she wanted to hold the can and bottle drive in an effort to support IFAW’s mission.
“Really, Canada doesn’t make enough profit from the fur trade, so they’re really killing them for nothing,” she said. “They’re innocent living things, babies, nonetheless. They don’t deserve to be killed for such a small profit.”
For Bartholomae, it’s a mission that hits close to the heart.
“I want to be a veterinarian. I’m very interested in animal welfare,” she said. “I just think this cause doesn’t get enough attention, so I’m trying to spread awareness.”
More information on the IFAW’s work can be found at ifaw.org/united-states.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.