Most Islanders were distressed to hear about the brutal killing of seals and their pups. Indeed, this event was also condemned throughout the world and P.E.I.’s reputation as a “gentle Island” has suffered a blow. Three young men are suspected of carrying out the killings and, like the young men who harassed and killed a lone fox, they did not step forward voluntarily.
It would seem we have at least two problems. The first is a culture of acceptance toward animal cruelty among a segment of the population. The second problem is the appropriate punishment and/or rehabilitation, if proven guilty. Although society does not yet place animal cruelty on the same level as violence against humans, it recognizes that animal cruelty is often a precursor or adjunct to violence against others in society. Consequently, this is a very serious offence.
An enlightened society would recognize that those involved in animal cruelty need intervention and treatment to bring back a sense of compassion and empathy so that they may grow up to contribute positively to society as kind and responsible husbands, fathers, and pet owners.
Ultimately, whoever is found guilty, I hope the court will consider requiring them to work with abused animals as part of their rehabilitation. As well, extensive counseling would be needed to explore the roots of their violence. As a province, we need strategies that promote discussion and positive activities among our young people related to the humane care and treatment of animals. Violence towards animals is a symptom of lack of compassion toward all beings. This event must motivate us to devote time and resources toward involving youth in activities that will bolster their compassion toward animals and each other.