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September 16, 2008

A Film to Seal the Deal

Nigel Barker visits The Humane Society of the United States' office
© The HSUS/McFarland
Nigel discusses his film with HSUS staff. See more photos >

Nigel Barker—professional photographer and a judge on "America's Next Top Model" and one of The HSUS's top spokespersons—was here at our office today near Washington, D.C. to speak to the staff and to show us his new documentary, "A Sealed Fate?". It's a highly personal, accessible, and in the end very moving 45-minute documentary about Nigel's involvement in recording images of seals in the wild and the killing of them. This afternoon Nigel is on Capitol Hill, sharing the film with congressional staff and lawmakers, and urging passage of the Senate resolution to end the seal hunt.

The film chronicles Nigel's two trips to Atlantic Canada this year with his team and with HSUS staff—the first before the hunt started where he showed the world through his pictures this open-air nursery and the majesty of the seals and the seascape, and the second to broadcast images of the hunt itself. The film includes commentary from Rebecca Aldworth, our Humane Society International director in Canada, who offhandedly swats away the self-serving arguments and rationalizations of the pro-sealing crowd and exposes the pitifully small amount of economic activity surrounding the hunt.

The biopic subtly conveys how this slaughter of a quarter of a million or more seals really exists because of stubbornness and inertia, not because of its contribution to the economy and certainly not its role in managing marine mammal or fish populations. It's just animal abuse, bound up with tradition, and it will only end when Canada, Americans, and Europeans make enough of a clamor and exert enough influence to shut it down.

Nigel Barker photographs baby harp seals in Atlantic Canada
© Nigel Barker Photography
Nigel on the ice in March photographing the harp seal nursery.

The documentary is moving but not overly graphic, resisting the temptation to show the hunt in its full gore because you want the world to know what goes on there. Nigel has an eye not only for the seals, but also for the digestibility of this topic for the general public. He strikes just the right balance in the film and provides a powerful new tool for public awareness and engagement in our effort. At the film's close you want to shake the policy makers in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere and ask them how they can defend such extreme cruelty.

I was moved by the film, and I know you will be, too. As it reaches its close, you just wish that everyone could be placed in front of the screen to see it, in the hope that enough good people will act to put a stop to the mass seal slaughter. We'll pass on word on when and where we will show it. In the meantime, let us know if you might like to consider a showing in your community. Together we must end this madness.

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