HUNTWATCH, narrated by actor Ryan Reynolds, recounts the compelling chronology of the fight to end the commercial seal hunt in Atlantic Canada. The film will air on September 22 on the Discovery Channel, immediately following a limited theatrical release, and will debut worldwide later this year.
Produced by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), HUNTWATCH highlights the tumultuous history that is the East Coast Canadian commercial seal hunt. Forty plus years of ongoing activism, that included filming the hunt with an unblinking eye, brought images of the bloody ice floes to people’s television sets and into their homes around the world. Garnering international headlines and sparking what some believe to be the start of the modern animal welfare movement, the hunt was almost brought to an end in the eighties. But trends in the fishing industry in many parts of the world, and the current demands for fur in the Far East have unfortunately reignited the battle.
HUNTWATCH premieres as part of DISCOVERY IMPACT, a series of trailblazing documentaries focusing on humankind’s impact on the environment and our wildlife and what individuals and communities can do to solve global problems. HUNTWATCH premieres Thursday, September 22 exclusively on Discovery Channel.
More than forty years ago, respected Canadian sealers were quietly slaughtering baby harp seals for their valuable white fur. In 1969, after witnessing the brutal practice for himself, a young activist named Brian Davies set out on a courageous crusade to save seal populations in Canada. That year, Davies launched the International Fund for Animal Welfare to protect and preserve animal populations worldwide. Using his camera as a weapon, Davies began documenting the horrific practice and subsequently pioneered an unprecedented animal welfare movement. For the first time ever, everyday people were witnessing horrific animal murders on the evening news. Over the next few decades, Davies would build an army of activists and use the power of visual communications to upend the sealing industry. Today a young, tough activist Sheryl Fink leads the daring – and often dangerous – war against the hunt.
Utilizing creative media strategies – including celebrity spokespeople and transporting journalists to the bloody ice pans, Davies and IFAW were gathering support from allies and making enemies with sealers and the Canadian government. The footage rallied international attention, drawing sharp criticism from people outraged by the cruelty they saw on the ice, resulting in the European Parliament banning the import of baby white-coat seal products in the 1980s. Davies and IFAW had succeeded at shutting down the hunt – but the victory was short-lived.
Blaming seals for the cod stock collapse and changing regulations to allow seals to be “harvested” once they start molting their white birth fur, the Canadian government was able to reinstate the hunt for baby seals. Fighting against the sealing industry, which is bolstered by politicians vying to hold their seats, IFAW has doubled their efforts and shifted strategy to end this cruel and unnecessary practice. HUNTWATCH is proof that individual voices and sustained campaigns fought over decades do make a difference.
HUNTWATCH is directed by Brant Backlund; editors, Brant Backlund and David Kennedy; producers, Kerry Branon, Richard Moos, Brant Backlund, David Kennedy; executive producers, Azzedine Downes, Erica Martin, Shawna Moos; narrator, Ryan Reynolds; writer, Brant Backlund; director of photography, Richard Moos. For Discovery Channel: supervising producer, Ryan Harrington; executive producer, John Hoffman.