“Snuffy the Seal”: Offensive or Effective?

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Whether this was your first or fiftieth time watching the Discovery Channel’s viral Shark Week ad, “Snuffy the Seal,” the video is sure to have caught your attention.

The ad has been called “polarizing,” “controversial,” and even “horrifying.”

Loved or hated, there’s no doubt that the video is effective – mere minutes after the promo aired, “Snuffy the Seal,” was a trending topic on Twitter, and dozens of news articles have been written in the days since its release on the ad’s effectiveness and shock value.

In the 30-second video, Snuffy the seal is returned to the sea after being rescued and rehabilitated. Cheering onlookers watch as Snuffy is hoisted in a harness off the dock and into the ocean…where he is promptly devoured by a great white shark. Onlookers and news reporters stand in shock as the ad ends: “Shark Week: It’s a bad week to be a seal. For the rest of us it’s pretty awesome.”

To be clear, the video was not real, but many viewers were still shocked and upset by the ad. Although we would not recommend this clip for children, the fact is, sharks do eat sea creatures, including squid, fish, dolphins, sea lions, and, yes, even seals. The ad puts a particularly dramatic and shocking spin on a great white shark’s feeding, but the fact is, in nature, sharks, as apex predators, eat all kinds of marine animals below the in the food chain, including the ones that we find especially cute or captivating.

However, it is important to remember that even though sharks eat seals and many other creatures, we shouldn’t feel threatened by sharks. In fact, the statistics show us that we should not be scared of, but rather scared FOR, sharks. An incredibly powerful infographic from Joe Chernov and Robin Richards documents the reality: While approximately 12 humans are killed each year from shark attacks, over 11,000 sharks are killed every hour by humans. That’s roughly three sharks killed per second, and 100 million sharks killed by humans every year, mostly for their fins for shark fin soup.

Shark finningis a brutal practice – the shark is hauled onto a boat,its fins are sliced off, and the shark is thrown back into the ocean, often still alive, to drown or bleed to death. The practice of shark finning is banned in the U.S., but still continues around the world.At the rate of one hundred million sharks killed every year, humans may wipe some shark populations out entirely in the coming decades if we don’t change something.

Proposed regulations to implement the Shark Conservation Act could reverse all the progress in reducing the demand for shark fins in the United States. We cannot move shark conservation in the wrong direction. — please sign our petition telling the National Marine Fisheries Service to remove language that threaten state shark fin trade bans.

Sharks have swum our world’s oceans for 450 million years. Older than the dinosaurs, theyhave survived all five mass extinctions, but now sharks face their greatest challenge – us. The Discovery Channel’s ad may be all about “Saving Snuffy,” but here at Oceana, we believe that Shark Week (and the other 51 weeks of the year) needs to be all about saving sharks, and ensuring that these incredible creatures survive and thrive for generations to come.

This article was written by Justine Sullivan for Oceana.org


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Mary Hannigan
Mary Hannigan

The ad really upset me! How could they do that to a poor seal that they had rescued and nursed back to health? I’m so glad to find out the ad wasn’t real!!!

Phil McKool

We never actually saw the seal get eaten, it merely seemed as if the shark ate him. A guy in a white t-shirt stepped in front of the camera at the moment when we assume the Snuffy was allegedly eaten. Since the death-blow was blocked from our sight we can’t be sure that he actually was eaten. He may have fallen into the water and managed to escape. Maybe we will Snuffy again?

Phil McKool
Phil McKool

We never actually saw the seal get eaten, it merely seemed as if the shark ate him. A guy in a white t-shirt stepped in front of the camera at the moment when we assume the Snuffy was allegedly eaten. Since the death-blow was blocked from our sight we can't be sure that he actually was eaten. He may have fallen into the water and managed to escape. Maybe we will Snuffy again?

Glenn Perrigo

Discovery should have released a "rediscovered" mermaid instead. Never mind, many folks believe that show was real too. I can't believe that I've had to explain to some of my university biology students that their mermaid show was a fake documentary. I don't know which is worse, the Discovery Channel (and all their annoying clones), or the sad fact that these kids are technically adults who can vote.