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November 2, 2007

Last night, AU’s School of Communication hosted an environmental awareness lecture and film screening with Cathy Malani of the Human Society of the United States. Malani, who was promoted to head of the investigation department, travels the world working to protect animals via shooting, editing and producing muckraking short films and public service announcements that she posts on the Humane Society’s website. Prior to last night’s speech, Malani was traveling around southern California rescuing animals from recent wildfires and led a bust in a cockfighting ring in San Diego.
“The recent Michael Vic case has rightfully brought animal abuse out of the shadows,” Malani said.
Apart from her domestic animal rescues, Malani has participated in raising awareness for numerous foreign animal abuse cases, including the slaughtering of baby seals in the Harp Seal Nursery at the annual spring hunt on Canada’s East Coast.
“When seals are first born, they have white fur,” Malani said. “Canada recently passed legislation that prevented hunters from slaughtering seals before they develop gray hair. It typically takes 12 days into the seal’s life for this to happen.”
The Humane Society rents out boats to capture the slaughter of the seals on film to craft public service announcements for their website. This past March at the hunt, Malani and her crew ran into legal troubles when they were accused of breaching rules stipulated in their filming permits.

“The hunters do not like to be filmed on the water whatsoever,” Malani said. “At times, they tried to crash their large boats into ours, so we had to violate our permits for our safety and to navigate around the ice.”
The filming permits were instantly revoked and some crew members were arrested. Malani explained that the Humane Society’s contributions towards raising awareness of the slaughtering have lead to a decline in the number of seals killed. Last year’s hunt, Malani said, left 325,000 seals killed, yet this year, the number dropped to 275,000.
“Canada will never make the hunt illegal. There is a huge fishing community up there. They have been doing it for decades and it is their right.”

Instead, Malani states, the Humane Society is not focusing on ending the hunt, but rather urging consumers to boycott goods containing seal skin.
“We are not telling people to stop doing anything,” Malani said. “We are just suggesting that there are alternatives.”
The Humane Society’s short films chronicling the brutal nature of seal slaughtering in Canada speak enough for themselves, Malani suggested. The videos have had widespread impact in spreading awareness of the cruel slaughtering tactics Canadian sealers, including in Greenland, where the government banned imports of Canadian seal skins, citing fears of inhumane slaughtering, Malani said.
Apart from her work with seals in Canada, Malani has documented the cruel tactics of horse slaughter houses in Mexico as well as the brutality of factory farming. When asked how she copes with witnessing animal cruelty first hand on a regular basis, Malani explained that despite how disturbing it is, she knows that what she is doing with the Humane Society is essential to preserving animal rights.
“It’s difficult,” Malani said. “I am there to get the images and bring about change. It’s really tough at times, but knowing that these images can have an impact on the future and initiate change provides me with solace.”
I was glad I attended the lecture because it was, not only deeply engaging, but also refreshing to feel passionate for a cause that hasn’t been relentlessly rehashed during political debates lately.
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