Never Surrender! One Courageous Man's Attempt to Single-Handedly Stop Newfoundland's Seal Slaughter
from No Compromise Issue 8
 

By Frank Arnold

This is the somewhat belated account of my extended adventures in Newfoundland, Canada during 1996. Why a person from Victoria, British Columbia would choose the other side of Canada to go adventuring, I will explain...

SEAL SLAUGHTER

Until 1983 over a quarter million seals were clubbed, gaffed, drowned, shot and "sculped" off Newfoundland each and every spring. Most of these seals were "whitecoat" pups of less than three weeks in age. Due to the relentless onslaught, the seal population slipped below 1 million from an original population of over 10 million. Finally the massive slaughter collapsed due to the herculean efforts of animal rights and environmental groups such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Wildlife Coalition, and Greenpeace.

The Newfoundland and Canadian governments quietly set about rebuilding the industry. They established the Canadian Sealers Association to promote and enhance the seal carcass industry. Extensive marketing was undertaken in the Far East, particularly with the much publicized "seal penis" aphrodisiac. The government set up a $.30/lb subsidy for seal meat, most of which ends up as feed on fur farms. The seal herds, which had recovered from a low of under 1 million to about 4.5 million were falsely blamed for the collapse of the cod stocks and the sole barrier to their recovery. In truth, if the government seeks the reasons behind the demise of the cod, they need only listen to their own scientists and look no further than their own two hands. Instead, the Federal Fisheries Minister increased the quota to 250,000 seals in 1996. A renewed slaughter of the seals was in the making, with proportions rivaling the holocausts of the past.

IN DEFENSE OF SEALS

It is at this juncture that my involvement in the story begins. I knew that unless I took action, the old war-machine would grind back to life. I devised a plan. I knew who the targets were and where they were. I waited until the end of February, just weeks before the mass-killings were set to begin. I purchased false identification and gathered some of the necessary equipment: gloves, tire puncture devices made of soldered nails in jack-like configurations in case the police gave chase, thermal blanket in case of emergency (Newfoundland is usually quite cold) etc. I bought a plane ticket using my false ID from Victoria, B.C. to St. John's, Nfld. Upon arrival, I purchased my remaining tools (crowbar, boltcutters, wirecutters) and constructed 12 incendiary devices (2 litre pop bottles filled with 2/3 gasoline and 1/3 dish soap - napalm, with several fuses made of incense sticks and matches attached to the bottom). Initially, I had planned to use a more elaborate incendiary device but decided against it as the more complex it is the greater the chance it can foul up.

I purchased a car using my false ID and attached plates from another car to it. At nightfall, I left St. John's with all of my gear and traveled west to Dildo where the Carino plant is located. This plant has been the primary buyer of seal pelts for the past thirty years. As such, it is the linchpin of the entire industry. Indeed, it is used for this sole purpose and is closed from July to March. It was my belief that if Carino could be taken out, the hunt would essentially be over before it started, at least for this season and maybe for good, as the industry was rebuilding and financially vulnerable. My intention was to survey the plant and ensure that nobody was inside or around (this is a MUST), infiltrate the perimeter, place the lighted incendiary devices in each building (I had discovered there are six main buildings) and make my escape to St. John's and catch the first flight off the rock.

BUSTED!

However, rarely do plans exactly work out. Ten minutes before reaching the Carino seal plant, I pulled the car over to assemble both my gear and myself. With a stroke of unbelievably bad luck a police car was parked down the street from where I turned off. He flashed his red and blue and pulled up beside me. With a ditch in front of me, my engine turned off and a very temperamental beaten old car, I deemed my tire puncture devices to be useless. I had carelessly placed myself in a compromising position. I got out of my car and asked the police officer what he wanted, to which he replied "license and registration" - both of which I obviously could not provide. After some time, he asked me to step into the back of his car until he could sort this out.

THE CHASE BEGINS

At this point, I thought it would be best for me to leave, so I ran into the nearest bushes. Instinctively, our police officer yelled "runner" even though he was by himself (upon reflection later I got a small laugh at this, but only a small one). It turned out that my nearest bushes were actually a recently thawed bog. I stayed low, in waist high water for about ten minutes while the police officer screamed around the area in his car. I exited the bog and my legs were almost numb. Mercifully, it was an abnormally warm winter. In the ensuing moments, police cars converged on the area from every direction.

I escaped and decided to make my way south into Whitbourne as the police would expect me to go back east to St. John's or maybe north to complete my mission in Dildo with my soggy lighter. I planned to take the long way around, back to St. John's. I was careful to leave as little tracks as possible on the soggy ground. Ironically, the fog that caused me to pull over was a saviour while on foot. Not only was I well hidden in the thick fog, but I could see cars coming long before they could see me (whenever this happened I jumped off the road into the ditch or forest and kept my face to the ground). I plodded through Whitbourne that night, past the police station, into Markland 10 miles further when dawn was approaching.

I found a greenhouse nursery closed down for the winter where I did my best to sleep during the day. There was plenty of snow to melt for water. When night approached, I took to the road again and continued south. Many hours later, on a desolate dirt highway, I found myself getting quite weak from a lack of food. I hadn't eaten much for some days before or during my arrival in Newfoundland. I also carelessly forgot to pack the trail mix in my bag, bought especially for such an occurrence. Not realizing how close I was to the next town Colinet - 15 miles south of Markland - I tried hitching a ride when two vehicles approached from behind. These two cars were the first I had seen in hours. The ride I received from the second vehicle was actually quite short as I was already close to Colinet.

APPREHENDED

I went into the small grocery store in Colinet and stocked up on food. Unknown to me, the driver of the first vehicle had been stopped the night before in a roadblock and was given a description of me. He later called the police who came rushing to the area. Meanwhile, I had made my way to Salmonier Line, a town ten miles east of Colinet. The police swarmed upon the area and subsequently swarmed upon me. I was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit arson.

The police knew what I was planning to do. When the officer found my bottles and fuses, he remembered what had happened the previous year at the Carino plant. They said an individual resembling myself had smashed up this same seal plant in 1995. That year, coincidentally, was supposed to be the comeback year with a full 186,000 quota. I never heard about any sabotage at Carino in the news. The dismal results of 1995's hunt were instead attributed to "poor ice conditions."

The police wanted to know who I was working for. "Was I a member of the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front?" I could see the interrogators shifting angles to try different approaches. They never offered a "deal" but instead carried on with: "I want to be your friend"; "You are going to take the fall for those who put you up to this"; casual swearing to try to fit in and put me at ease; insults of prominent environmental activists to try to arouse a response; "Is there anything I can tell your parents for you?" My answer "No" to this last question was quite a shock to the interrogator. He replied that that sounds very cold, to which I answered "what my parents want most of all is to have me out of jail, and that means not jeopardizing myself to you." This ended the conversation.

COURTS AND PRISON

I remained in jail until my trial in June for the charges of "possession of incendiary materials," "possession of break-in instruments" and "possession of stolen property" (the license plate). The RCMP were extremely thorough in their investigations and my chances of beating the charges were nil. Thirty witnesses and officers would line up against me. The judge was absolutely confounded. The situation before him was this: a 22 year old, fourth year university student from across the country with virtually straight A's in school and a squeaky-clean record was found in possession of incendiary devices, break-in instruments, tire puncture devices, false ID and the like. The look on his face would have been comical if I wasn't in such deep merde. I was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation. The crown prosecutor offered 6-12 months so I pleaded guilty, never taking the stand nor giving any explanation of my activities to the court. Due to the hardship my family and girlfriend had already endured, I decided to let the issue die down. I still think this was the best way to go. In October I was released on parole. Since I was captured before I could do the deed, the full quota of 250,000 seals was surpassed in 1996. It was the biggest killing in well over a decade.

After the trial, the RCMP and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service - Canada's FBI impersonators) maintained their interest in me. I confirmed what they knew about my plans to take out Carino (I definitely don't recommend this to anyone else). They still wanted to know "who I'm in with." They just never seemed to realize that if I was involved in some group then I wouldn't even be seeing them in the first place. They also wanted me to admit to the damage that occurred in 1995 to Carino. This didn't happen.

SEALING TODAY

There have also been a number of developments to wither any prospects for peace in Newfoundland. The quota has been increased again to 283,000 of which most have already been killed. Carino is receiving large numbers of pelts to ship to Norway. The Northeast Coast Sealers Cooperative in Fleur de Lys on the Baie Verte Peninsula is taking as many seals as they can get. Coles Fisheries of Savage Cove on the Northern Peninsula has been buying tens of thousands of carcasses the past couple of years. Terra Nova Fisheries of Clarenville and St. John's, who brought the lucrative seal penis trade to fruition, is still busy. A Canadian company Natsiq Inc. in partnership with Teleos Trading of Italy have begun to construct the huge Dorset Tannery in the Baie Verte 2000 Industrial Park in Fleur de Lys. They plan to process 150,000 seal carcasses per year as well as moose, caribou and other imported skins. On top of all this, the CSA in St. John's have continued their campaign extolling the virtues of the seal butchery.

LAST THOUGHTS AND ADVICE

I am often asked if it was worth it; would I do it all over again? Obviously, eight months in jail for what amounted to a non-event is not so great, but we do what we can do. My blood still boils. One has to consider if one could live with the thought of killing somebody - I don't know if I could. I knew that if I was caught I would be looking at a long sentence. I hadn't fully taken into account the anguish my family and girlfriend were to experience though. In February, 1996 I was in a state of helplessness and desparation. I simply had to stop the bloodshed. I knew that critical, immediate action was required. I knew that I could accomplish this and therefore had an obligation to do so. I would say that the crisis in Newfoundland has only worsened.

I certainly cannot recommend this line of action to anyone and everyone - it is an entirely personal decision. I will offer these bits of advice though: look at the whole picture; ensure you have a workable and dynamic plan; definitely don't make the same mistakes I did; arson is potentially very dangerous and will land you a hefty sentence - it also is hard to get paroled for arson charges; always ensure that nobody will get hurt - before, during and after; always wear gloves to avoid any fingerprints (the RCMP checked my fingerprints against those recovered from other actions including the fire at a sawmill in the B.C. interior in 1995); if you do get caught, don't answer any police questions, even if you know they are barking up the wrong tree - this will waste otherwise valuable investigation time; in this case, don't ever talk to anyone about your charges - I know some people who are doing time right now because they told too much to fellow inmates who later turned out to be RATS. I'm probably forgetting a great deal I could offer as advice and I apologize for this.