A former New Zealand resident involved in a violent clash with sealers in Canada is calling on Kiwis to help stamp out the "barbaric" hunting of marine mammals.
Lisa Shalom, 23, and 10 other crew members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel Farley Mowat were arrested yesterday while trying to take pictures of seals being killed.
Speaking from the Farley Mowat, off the coast of Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Ms Shalom said the crew had been assaulted on the ice by eight sealers carrying clubs and pickaxes. "The moment they saw us they threatened us with their hak-a-piks, they were verbally abusive, and their fists were flying," Ms Shalom said.
"They knew we were opposed to what they were doing and they were completely indignant about it."
The sealers were not arrested, but the anti-seal hunt activists, who Ms Shalom said stayed non-violent, were charged with violating seal protection regulations by approaching within half a nautical mile of a hunt.
The activists were released without bail to face a later court appearance. They face a $1000 fine or a three-month jail term. Some of the anti-hunt protesters were treated for minor injuries.
Canada's harp seal hunt, target of protests since the 1960s, began last week when thousands of sealers headed for the ice floes off eastern Canada. The seal hunt brings in millions of dollars for poor coastal communities, but is condemned by animal rights activists as barbaric. "The tools they use are primitive, hooks on the end of sticks, and they just bash the cubs over the head," said Ms Shalom.
"Some of them don't even die after several blows, they're just dragged across the ice to the boats where they are skinned alive and have their carcasses thrown back on the ice into a bloody pile."
Ms Shalom said New Zealanders could help by lobbying for an end for seal hunting. "Any energy that anyone can put into it is much appreciated," she said.
The Canadian came to New Zealand two-and-a-half years ago after a voyage to Antarctica and was active in peace, animal rights and environmental groups.