I came across a book at the library by Farley Mowat. For some reason, that name rang a bell but I didn’t know why. It’s called Bay of Spirits: A Love Story and recalls his life in the early sixties when he was sailing around the coast of Newfoundland and met the woman who was to become his second wife.
Reading the book makes me realise I must have heard his name in connection with environmental or animal welfare concerns. Whilst he spent a lot of time in the company of Newfoundland fishermen, and had no reservations about eating fish and meat, he was against sport fishing, hunting and the needless slaughter of whales and seals.
Whilst his book is mostly non-judgmental, he does describe scenes which move me to tears. Once when his little boat was moored in a Newfoundland harbour, he and Claire woke to a whale slaughter. A pod of whales was in the harbour and every day for three days the men would be going out in their dories to stab and slash at the whales. The sea ran red with blood.
Another time, he was on a ship that became stuck in ice. The harp seals that are so much a part of that area were giving birth on the ice around the boat. How can we forget the traumatic pictures of sealers slaughtering seals, especially those limpid eyes of the white babies? The men on this particular ship were not sealers but all the same they started shooting the seals – for sport. “Rats of the sea” they called them. I was disgusted, as I have been since I first heard about this Canadian abomination when I was a teenager. Thirty years later, it’s still happening.
The final chapter of Farley’s book talks about a whale that was trapped in a pond, waiting for another spring tide to give it enough depth to leave. The men from the nearest village jumped in their boats and shot at it, over and over, for days, just for fun. Farley was out there while it still lived, could see the pockmarked skin where the bullets had hit it. One day it disappeared. It had died, and eventually rose to the surface, a sad reminder of man’s inhumanity. I was going to say, man’s inhumanity to any species other than his own, but that wouldn’t be right. Man’s inhumanity to ANY species.
Another repeating theme of this book is the mention of how the fish are getting more and more scarce. Well, is that surprising, given that humans have been overfishing the seas for so long that they can’t survive. When will people realise that by destroying the land and wildlife around us, we will ultimately destroy ourselves?
I am ashamed to call myself a member of the human race.