Seal-Hunt Dishonesty

Here’s a short article about a forthcoming seal-hunt documentary and how it apparently creates a dishonest impression of members of The Humane Society. The piece contains a reasonably flagrant attempt at distraction from the seemingly pro-hunt film-maker.

Animal-rights activists are considering legal action to block a controversial documentary on Canada’s commercial seal hunt on RDI, the CBC’s French-language news network.

Phoques, le film, (Seals, the movie), produced by Quebec filmmaker Raoul Jomphe, has ruffled feathers at the Humane Society of the United States, because of a scene showing members of the group watching a dying seal for more than an hour as they filmed a promotional video of the hunt on ice floes in Atlantic Canada.

But Rebecca Aldworth, the director of Canadian wildlife issues for the Humane Society, said the scene was edited in a way that distorts what happened, and their lawyer has sent a letter to CBC asking it to take a look at the complete footage to ensure the documentary is balanced before it is scheduled to be broadcast on March 29.

Although Jomphe criticized the animal-rights group for not euthanizing the seal, Aldworth said that would have meant breaking the law.

“What he (Jomphe) doesn’t tell you is that it would have been illegal for us to do so,” she said Monday.

“Under the marine mammal regulations, only people with sealing licences can kill seals. But more importantly, we didn’t have the means or the equipment or the expertise to do that in a way that would not simply increase that animal’s suffering.”

Aldworth said she initially decided not to rescue the seal, because she believed it wouldn’t survive a helicopter ride to a veterinary hospital. More than an hour later, she said she realized it could be treated.

“Just as we were making arrangements to fly this seal back, the sealers came back and clubbed a lot of live seals in the area, including this one, and stabbed it through the skull with a metal spike,” she said. “We go up there to protect these animals and to try and stop this hunt, because this is something that happens so frequently in the course of this slaughter … and to have somebody edit a sequence of events to suggest that we would ever prolong the suffering of an animal to get video footage is obscene.”

But, it’s OK, apparently:

Jomphe said he doesn’t think anything needs to be changed in the movie, which was presented at a special screening for employees of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last week in Ottawa.

“The images speak for themselves,” he said, pointing out that he included Aldworth’s explanation about wanting to transport the seal to a hospital.

But not that euthanizing it would have been illegal?

“When they take images of hunters, they do editing, and that’s what we see … and suddenly she’s all offended that she’s being filmed in that way.”

It’s not editing itself that anyone is taking issue with. It’s dishonest editing. Editing that intentionally creates a false impression of events and seeks to indict people for intentionally and needlessly prolonging suffering they are, in reality, powerless to stop. Of course, Jomphe already knows that, but needs to cause this sort of false tu quoque distraction to avoid addressing the dishonesty itself.

17 Responses to “Seal-Hunt Dishonesty”

  1. 1 Amy Meeksion March 16, 2007 at 12:33 am

    I think that it’s a disservice to show a false filming , and show something that they know is NOT TRUE . I know Rebecca Aldworth and I know if she could have saved this seal , she would have . They don’t have the time to kill seals properly . Be realsitic , how can you kill 30 , 000 seals properly .

  2. 2 Michael Barbour March 16, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Would Ms. Aldworth be much like IFAW founder Brian Davies, who was discovered to have paid a sealer in 1964 to commit acts of cruelty towards seals – including skinning one alive – just so that the IFAW could get it on tape? A film that the IFAW still uses in its fundraising campaigns.

    Speaking of these honest people, if you go to the US Humane Society website for protecting seals, isn’t that an image of a whitecoat at the top of the page. Doesn’t the USHS know that the killing of whitecoats and bluebacks (the two cute kinds of seals), along with the mothers who are still weaning their children, has been illegal since 1987 to protect the health of the herd – a herd which has tripled in size in the last twenty years to over 6 million.

    I guess having Paul McCartney and Heather Mills hugging a seal that would have actually been involved in the hunt wasn’t quite as good a photo op and wouldn’t bring in the benjamins for this fundraising organization like using a whitecoat does.

  3. 3 Ed March 16, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    As to your question, personally, I’ve no idea whether Aldworth is, in the relevant sense, “like” Brian Davis or not. Is there any reason to think so? (Neither this, nor whether HSUS themselves are particularly honest, is relevant to the issue of this Jomphe guy and his allegedly dishonest documentary, of course, but I suppose they’re generally interesting topics.)

  4. 4 Michael Barbour March 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    My point was it is not like the animal rights fundraising organizations, such as the one Aldworth is involved in, don’t use deceptive editing, misinformative narrative, and in some cases in the past payment for illegal activities to further their cause.

    But somehow when this independent guy from Quebec does it, it’s wrong? It’s wrong for the CBC to show it even though they aired the 1964 film that I described?

    Quite a double standard, don’t you think?

  5. 5 Ed March 18, 2007 at 1:00 am

    If a person or organisation were to claim it’s acceptable for them to mislead but unacceptable for others to do so, then yes, that’d certainly be a double standard. But, of course, that fact doesn’t have any bearing on whether this Jomphe has mislead people or whether it’s acceptable for him to have done so. Incidentally, are you saying that Aldworth and/or HSUS have paid others to undertake illegal activities to further her/their cause? If not, then I can’t see why Brian Davies or IFAW are relevant factors, and mentioning them just looks like an attempt at attributing guilt purely by association.

  6. 6 Ed March 18, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    PS: I think those pictures on the HSUS site are of “ragged-jackets” rather than whitecoats?

  7. 7 garderiesquebec March 22, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    There was no editing of the shot, go ant look at it in this interview that was broadcasted by the French CBC. Take a look for yourselves and make up your mind, the video is at the beginning of the interview.

    HSUS seem to be the one’s who liberally edit shots to show what they want; this seems to be a documented practice. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    I can tel you that they will never get a dime from me again.

  8. 8 Ed March 22, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    While it was reasonably interesting, I can’t see how the clip shown during the interview is evidence that there was “no editing of the shot.” You say HSUS “seem to be the one’s who liberally edit shots to show what they want” and that this “seems to be a documented practice.” If you have any evidence of this, please share it. (It’s irrelevant either way though.)

  9. 9 garderiesquebec March 25, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    My allegation that there was no editing comes from simply from the director, he states that everything was filmed in wide shot.

    I invite you to take a look at the video that the HSUS used to win their award. MY GOD, its editing at its best. Event the sound track is evidently punched up so that we hear the seal pups cry out all the time, it makes me sick!

    I would also invite you to take a hard look at the liberal use of the images of white coats in almost ALL the advertising campaigns that I have seen from the animal protections groups when they talk about the Canadian seal hunt. Also take a look at all their websites; they all use the images of the cute white fluffy seal pup.

    For crying out loud, it’s been illegal to hunt them for 20 years!

    I am very surprised that consumer protection groups haven’t filed complaints about this in the past. It’s false and misleading advertising plain and simple.

    Now they have been caught in the act! It’s one of the most flagrant examples of deceptive advertising that I have seen in my life.

  10. 10 Ed March 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    I’m no media expert, but as far as I know “wide shot” simply means that the whole (in other words, from the head down to the feet) of the person being filmed is in the frame. More importantly though, you seem to be saying your original claim that there had been no editing was based purely on the director’s say so. Hardly compelling.

    I don’t know specifically which video you’re referring to, but I have seen clips that emphasize the sounds of the seal’s “screaming” in the way you describe. Such editing is shallow at best and flatly demagogic at worst. But to suggest moral or legal equivalence between a bit of hackneyed ad misericordiam (or even “false advertising” if the concept were applicable, which it isn’t) on the one hand and potentially libelous deception on the other is, I’m sure you can agree, decidedly inappropriate.

    When you mentioned the use of whitecoat imagery, you seemed to have slipped from referring simply to HSUS to referring to the far broader set of “animal protection groups” in general. As I made clear in an earlier comment, condemning HSUS for the actions of other groups simply looks like an attempt at attributing guilt purely by association. In any case, it might be worth noting that the “ragged-jacket” seals are still very cute, white and fluffy and indeed seem ubiquitous where the HSUS website, at least, is concerned. It’s perfectly legal, however, for hunters to beat “ragged-jacket” seals to death. Admittedly, pure whitecoat seals also make appearances in the HSUS media output, but, in the instances I’ve seen that happen, there’s been no implication they’d be killed before they were two-weeks old.

    This is a side-issue, but the fact you’ve mentioned “false advertising” and “consumer protection groups” makes me think you’re perhaps confusing your contexts. The HSUS media output doesn’t consist of advertisements for a product or products, but instead of promotional material for an ideological and perhaps quasi-political cause. In short, HSUS are not a commercial body – they’re a charity. As such, consumer protection groups and advertising regulations are inapplicable.

  11. 11 Dom April 2, 2007 at 3:47 am

    Legally speaking, the HSUS could not have finished off the seal. What is shown in the wide shot is an activist pulling the seal out after the seal decided on its own (obviously knowing it was injured) to go into the water. Probably to die in peace. What the HSUS did was pull it out of the water and film again for 40 minutes. Why didn’t they just let it die? Ironaically enough, that would have been more ‘humane’

  12. 12 Ed April 2, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Well, firstly, whether the seal entered the water intentionally is somewhat debatable, and secondly, whether seals are even capable of making conscious decisions to end their own lives is decidedly so. But even ignoring these two complications, presumably, the only way in which the seal could have hoped to have hastened its death by entering the water is if it sought to drown itself. If this was its intention, however, it seems very strange that it would’ve bobbed around at the edge of the ice with its nose above the water-line. From the clip, it looks much more like the seal was trying to leave the water but due to its injuries was unable to do so.

    Of course, a reply – albeit by now a slightly despondent one – could be that they should’ve left the seal to drown regardless, as that would’ve resulted in less aggregate suffering. However, given that seals can survive underwater for upward of one and a half hours, it doesn’t seem particularly likely this course of inaction would’ve had the desired effect of significantly expediting death. Furthermore, if they had left it in the water, in all likelihood we’d currently be having a debate about a Raoul Jomphe documentary that showed HSUS members cold-heartedly standing around and letting an injured seal drown!

  13. 13 Lisa April 7, 2007 at 5:57 am

    “It’s not editing itself that anyone is taking issue with. It’s dishonest editing. Editing that intentionally creates a false impression of events and seeks to indict people for intentionally and needlessly prolonging suffering they are, in reality, powerless to stop.”

    And how do you know that HSUS members don’t partake in “dishonest editing” themselves? It doesn’t seem likely that all seal hunters attack the seals the way there are shown to do in these videos. Chances are, those sealers are the exception, and these activist groups “intentionally create a false impression of events…” You get the picture. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on (your stance is obviously clear), we’re dealing with a pot and a kettle calling each other black.

  14. 14 Ed April 7, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    What you’re saying, Lisa, is that since we cannot know for certain that HSUS haven’t engaged in dishonest and libellous editing themselves, it’s reasonable to assume that they have. But this is an example of what’s known as argumentum ad ignorantiam; a lack of evidence is not, itself, evidence.

    I’m not sure in what way you think the seal hunters actually attack the seals, but the hunters’ methods are a matter of common knowledge, public record and are even plainly stated on the Canadian Fisheries and Aquaculture Management website. Their skulls are crushed with a hakapik or club.

  15. 15 Freddy March 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Along this road, I as far as possible pressure to these horrific mass murders, this little baby seals to prevent.

    Facebook group:

  16. 16 Jim March 27, 2009 at 2:33 am

    I guess it’s a bit late to comment on this, but anyhow: what about the cows and pigs? I mean, they are brutally killed every day (and that includes pigs going backwards into the electric-shock automated rails).

    Read this for instance:

    So! Its skull gets crushed… and what about the meat on your table? In your grocery store? Have you seen any activists there?

    Nah, it’s all hype and marketing – and I guess it counterbalances the “non-green” organisations.

    So if you like to give your money to these “marketing” organizations, go ahead! I’d rather give it to local “green” organizations, those I can check and monitor. At least I don’t feel like I’m giving to crooks!

    Go local! You won’t regret it…!

  17. 17 Ed March 27, 2009 at 10:49 am


    Well, there doesn’t tend to be much meat on my table given that I am, broadly speaking, a vegetarian. Further, as to the question of whether I have seen any activists at my local grocery store, the answer is yes.

    In any event, while a discussion of the priorities and the practical versus promotional efficacy of differing areas of animal and environmental advocacy might well prove interesting, it would seem rather far-removed from the subject at issue.

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