Thursday, June 13, 2013

Youths who Killed 65 Seals Receive No Jail Time

On January 27, 2013, three youths from Prince Edward Island, Canada, killed 65 seals who were resting on the shore on the Eastern end of the Island. Veterinarians from the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown confirmed the seals died from blunt force trauma to the head and that not all of them died immediately. A necropsy concluded that 10 seal pups had severely fractured skulls. 

Only when a reward was offered, did a member of the local community name the perpetrators. The 15 and 17-year-olds who could not be identified because of their age and 18-year-old Colton Clements, admitted to using a hockey stick, a club and a clam hack to kill the seals. They disposed of the club and clam hack and burned the hockey stick.

The court heard that it was the 15-year-old who came up with the idea and that he killed the majority of the seals while the other two went along with the plan. The youngest offender said “seals are like mice in your cupboards”. He did not seem to understand why people were so upset. The 17-year-old, the only one of the three who had been drinking at the time of the incident, killed 2 seals and stopped because he “felt bad for the seals.”  He said, “I knew it was wrong and I wish I had not done it.” The 18-year-old killed 5 seals and stopped, but made no attempt to prevent the 15-year-old from bludgeoning the rest of the seals.
They were all sentenced today in Georgetown in front of Judge Nancy Orr. The two juveniles received fines, two years of probation, 200 hours of community service, and because they enjoy hunting and fishing, they will not be allowed to do these activities for two years.
The 18-year-old was given a similar sentence, but a slightly larger fine even though he could have received up to five years in jail. In making her ruling, Judge Orr said the maximum sentence was for the worst offenses with the worst facts and for the worst offenders. She said “the facts are bad, but this is not the worst offender” because this young man had no prior history of violence and had not been in trouble of any kind. 
Undoubtedly, Judge Orr will come under criticism for her decisions, but she is restricted in terms of how she can punish youthful offenders. Colton Clements was one month past his 18th birthday and just three months older than the 17-year-old. Judge Orr said she would not make him the “sacrificial lamb” so she opted to punish him in a similar fashion as she did the other two perpetrators.
A letter of support for the three youths suggested, “they were undoubtedly influenced by the low opinion of seals in a tight fishing community.”  Online comments expressed outrage, but those in the local community seemed to support these young men and perhaps even their motives.

Seals are blamed for the decline in cod stocks even though seals prey upon the predators of cod. The death of seals in this region is routine, as seal hunters venture onto the ice each spring to kills baby seals despite the fact that there is no market for Canadian seal products.

This is not the first time that Georgetown, population 693, has experienced a collision of sentiments between those who kill seals and those who defend these marine mammals. In 2008, violence erupted on the dock as locals cut the dock lines of the Sea Shepherd Conversation Society’s vessel, the Farley Mowat.
It takes a community to raise a child, and it was this community that raised the three who committed horrific acts of violence against a herd of seals. Violence against animals is often a precursor to violence against people and these young men need professional help. The lens through which they view the world is flawed.

If there is a miniscule ray of hope in this land of love for seal killers, it is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans investigated, charges were made, and there were convictions even though the punishment was minimal. At least the killing of these seals was deemed a crime, unlike the senseless slaughter than happens every year in Canada in the name of tradition and commerce.
For the Oceans,
Grey Seal