(Labrador, Canada) Harp seal activist William Walkman has
long been admired for his devotion to the cause of saving
baby harp seals from their annual slaughter. For years,
Walkman has lived among the seals, befriending them, and
caring for the babies while the parents went off in search of food.
Walkman's story is made even more compelling through the video
he has shot of himself interacting with the seals. On one day he
is seen beating off a killer whale with a pole as it attempts
to catch seals, a staple of the killer whale diet. The next
day he is seen trying to feed fish to the baby seals, as adult
seals nervously circle him, barking and pounding their tails
on the ice in their attempts to protect their babies.
The camera captures a man obsessed with a mission, yet his
motivation seems to be a blurred mixture of altruism and selfishness.
His mood varies between elation and despair, and his rants against
humanity for its uncaring use of baby seal pelts for fur seem,
at times, strangely self-serving.
The video that Walkman has gathered of the seals presents
an unnerving juxtaposition of the baby seals' cuteness with
a life that is filled with danger on a daily basis. Sharks,
polar bears, and killer whales are always on the hunt for the seals,
and Walkman is often seen placing himself in between the hunter
and the hunted. He is a self-appointed guardian, risking his
life as he interrupts the natural course of nature.
The recent discovery of Walkman's body by some fishermen,
beaten to death in his sleep, was met with widespread
suspicion that seal hunters had taken matters into their own
hands. But an investigation by Labrador provincial
police has now revealed that blood samples taken from the
tails of several adult seals match Walkman's blood.
The tragic death of Walkman is now believed to be the
result of an attack by the adult seals, probably in the middle
of the night while Walkman was trapped in his sleeping bag.
The adult seals instinctive protectiveness over their pups
was a force that Mr. Walkman could not overcome. Despite
his near-fanatical care for their welfare, the seals role
in the natural order of things was not to be interrupted.
Life for the seals will now go on as it had before,
a life filled with danger, whether from sharks, killer whales,
and polar bears, or from the men who arrive each year to club
the young seals for their fur.
History will have to judge whether William Walkman
was a champion of animal rights, or a lost soul who was just
trying to restore some meaning in his lonely, tortured life…
or, just maybe, some of both.
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