‘On Thin Ice’

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    Local animal activist shows newest documentary on the plight of the harp seal.

    By Cathy Neiman/Staff Writer

    Animal rights activists, animal rights groups, spokespersons, Malibu locals, celebrities such as local Pierce Brosnan and others packed the banquet room at Duke’s Malibu

    Friday night, Jan. 31, to help stop the slaughter of the harp seal. The fundraiser was called, “On Thin Ice,” the name of Timothy Treadwell’s newest documentary.

    Treadwell, a hardcore animal rights activist and a Malibu resident, is mostly known throughout animal rights groups for his work with bears. Every summer, Treadwell lives among the brown grizzly bears in the Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in Northern Alaska for four months. He brings no weapons, only a ration of food and a tent. He has been doing this work for more than a decade and documents his time with the bears (his “family,” as he calls them), by self-videotape.

    Even though the fundraiser and silent auction on Jan. 31 was primarily to bring awareness to the inhumane slaughter of harp seals in eastern Canada, there were also representatives and spokespersons for other animal rights and environmental groups. International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was the chief group at the fundraiser, along with spokespersons for Global Whale, Last Chance for Animals (LCA) and Environment Now, to name a few.

    Music from “The Soul Dogs” and Preston Smith set the tone for the event, with images from Treadwell’s videos shown in the background. Treadwell showcased ” On Thin Ice” to the public for the first time.

    Chris DeRose, a native New Yorker and president of LCA, spoke in a thick East Coast accent about the atrocities committed against the harp seal. “Worse than I have ever seen in laboratories, are the killing fields of the baby seal in Eastern Canada. You fly over the ice and all you see is red in the snow from the blood of the slaughter.”

    A. J. Cady, who has been the director for IFAW for more than 13 years, said, “One of the challenges we face right now is that in the last 5 to 6 years, the killing of the baby harp seal has exploded in the eastern part of Canada. It is politically correct in their country to kill these animals. On Monday (Feb. 3) Canada will announce in a press release that the quota to legally kill harp seals has risen from 200,000 to 350,000 a year. The Canadian government’s excuse is, they say, the harp seal is eating all the codfish, which is killing the fishing industry of Eastern Canada.”

    Cady also pointed out that in 1983 the killing of the harp seal was pretty much under control due to Europe’s ban of imported white fur. Because of this ban, the majority of people thought the harp seal were saved. Not only are the harp seals in danger of being slaughtered, the icebergs they live on are melting.

    “Because of the good ‘ol days of the ’90s, the seals are literally on thin ice. Because of global warming the seals are struggling just to find ice so that they can give birth. Between the ice melting and the cruelty of how they are being hunted, the harp seal will soon be extinct. I have watched 3 million seals die in the last 13 years people need to see this film.”

    Treadwells’ documentary, “On Thin Ice,” which was edited by Tom Daly, who edited blockbuster hits such as “About Schmidt” and “Election,” was shown at the end of the evening.

    “This shows the good, the bad and the ugly,” Treadwell said, warning the audience that some parts of the film are hard to watch because of the graphic bludgeoning of the harp seals.

    By the end of the night, many people’s faces were tear-stained and visibly moved by Treadwell’s documentary. Many people were signing up for IFAW’s annual “Seal Watch,” which is a five-day excursion that places people among the harp seals, accompanied by IFAW staff.