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* O'Flaherty: Let's Fight, Claw and Spit Back

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* The Economist: Who's the Pirate - Sea Shepherd or the Canadian government?

* Marmorstein: New Sealing Regulations a New Ruse

* Moore: The Cruelty Remains



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Seal Hunt Editorials and Op-Eds


‘Let’s fight, claw and spit back’
Patrick O’Flaherty takes firm stand on seal hunt — ‘never surrender’

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

“For the love and honour of J—s, Paddy,” my friend Tom remarked to me a few days ago, “will you give up writing about the cursed seal hunt?” I suspect not a few of my readers feel the same way. Let me beg their indulgence, and that of my editor, for foisting on them one more column on the subject. To try and see the hunt in perspective.

Opponents of the seal hunt may be divided into two categories. First, those who are opposed to the killing of animals. Period. Whether it is for food, clothing, income — whatever — they think killing animals is wrong. There is no way to convince those people to accept sealing, since they think cows, pigs, chicken, sheep, maybe even fish, shouldn’t be killed either. We can argue the sealers’ case all we like. Forget it. They’re zealots.

The second category includes the non-zealots, those who accept that animals may be slaughtered to satisfy human needs. But they have certain ethical concerns about how the slaughtering should be done. And they think sealing may violate those guidelines.

Those general ethical concerns that apply to the killing of animals are discussed in the 1986 Report of the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada. They are: that killing animals shouldn’t threaten the survival of a species; that killing should be done in a humane way; that the reason for killing should be socially and economically important, not a trivial one; and that the killing shouldn’t be wasteful, i.e., it shouldn’t leave large parts of animals’ bodies unused.

The report addressed each of these. “Sealing operations pose no significant risks to any stocks,” it read. “There is little cruelty or unnecessary suffering inflicted in most sealing operations. Some people have attacked the triviality of the ultimate uses of seal products (e.g., in fashion furs), but the critical issue is the importance of the income generated for those hunting seals. This income is of considerable importance to sealers living in conditions of limited economic opportunities. In most sealing operations there is little or no waste of any usable seal product.”

The royal commission report is the most thorough examination of Canadian sealing ever carried out. Not all its recommendations favoured the sealers. For instance, the commission recommended an end to the whitecoat hunt, which was followed through on. I realize the report is more than 20 years old. Perhaps we need a new commission to look at the subject again. Until then, this is the best we have. It is a dispassionate, moderate and careful study. It should give us strength and purpose as we answer opponents of the hunt. It has arguments in it that can convince the persuadable, those in the second category above, that the seal hunt is necessary and viable. I’ve read a good deal of anti-hunt literature since 1986, to the extent that my stomach could take it, and none of the ranting and roaring has made a dent in the report’s conclusions.

The zealots first arrived on the scene in the 1970s and they’ve kept up a campaign, somewhat varying in intensity from year to year, but continuous, against the seal hunt ever since. They have many weapons: inflammatory images from the ice floes; photos of seal pups with “tears” in their eyes; TV ads; celebrities to promote the cause; dedicated, well-paid leadership; and an army of skilled letter writers who know how to cajole and abuse.

Finally, they have plenty of loot from blinkered adherents; the delicate consciences of those far removed from the hunt. Nervous nellies everywhere.

In his April 18 column, So hungry I could eat a seal, Ryan Cleary referred to “the fact the Newfoundland seal hunt is doomed.” That’s not a fact. That’s a surmise. The fact is the seal hunt survives. The zealots have been trying to get it stopped for four decades, and they’ve failed. I admit the outlook isn’t very cheerful, especially with the likelihood the EU will ban the import of seal products. But that hasn’t happened yet, and if it does, other markets may open.
We’re in an argument, folks. Other generations of Newfoundlanders have argued over responsible government, the railroad, votes by women, Confederation and other weighty subjects.

It’s our turn. Our fight is over sealing. The difference this time is that Newfoundland is under assault from outside. It has been chosen as a target by zealots — too cowardly to pick on places like Alberta or Montana where they’d be strung up if they jeopardized the beef industry — because they think, or thought, we’re weak, they can drive us under. We’re on a remote fringe of North America, with half a million people, nobody cares about us, no one will take our part. That’s what’s in the minds of hate-filled and ignorant letter writers in San Diego and Kerrville, Tex.

Let’s fight, claw, and spit back. Never surrender. William Carson had it right: “Submission never gained a point in politics.”




Why do they call this slaughter a 'hunt'?

April 17, 2008

Why do they call it the seal "hunt?" There is absolutely no "hunting" involved. It is seal "killing" or slaughter, with nothing resembling a hunt or chase.

Calling the annual slaughter a "hunt" implies the possibility of failure, of not bringing a prey to bay, where it is killed. "Hunt" implies some talent, or skill in divining the movements or location of whatever it is being hunted.

No real hunter is a killer.

Those who participate in what is euphemistically called the seal hunt get their kicks from the killing, not the hunting.

The image of the annual seal harvest engraved on most minds is of a man with a raised pole with a spike on its end -- called a hakapik -- about to strike a helpless seal pup on an ice flow.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams (every province should be lucky enough to have such an ardent advocate as premier) and Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik, urge that the hakapik be banned -- not because it is not effective for killing seals, but because it looks cruel and barbaric.

The premiers feel banning the hakapik would neutralize much of the negative criticism from Europe, of men clubbing baby seals on the head.

While it looks bad, killing a baby seal with a blow to the head is both effective and humane. By definition, a quick death is a humane death, albeit unaesthetic.

We are told that 90% of seals are killed by a rifle shot, not a club, so Williams and Okalik feel banning this "humane but barbaric" instrument of massacre will ease the pressure on Canada and persuade Europe not to boycott, but to continue importing seal products.>

The pair are probably right. It doesn't justify the annual slaughter, but it'll ease the pressure.

I'm afraid I agree with Farley Mowat in his distaste for the annual slaughter of a couple hundred thousand seals, in essence subsidized by the Canadian government with meagre commercial value.

In a Globe and Mail article, Mowat recounts impressions when he visited the killing flows: "These sealers weren't like fishermen, they were butchers ... they didn't much care if the seals were killed or not. They'd hit them over the head, cut off their flippers and skin them alive. The authorities say this is a canard, that it doesn't happen this way. But it does."

That may be Farley-speak, but it's how many feel.

My view is that the annual "hunt" is a chance for the boys to get together on the ice flows, to escape the rigours of winter and have a break by killing seals, and make extra pocket money.

The money isn't great, but the comradeship and adventure is worth it.


Most of all, the seal slaughter demeans humans. In a way it's reminiscent of those who execute people in large numbers and dump them in mass graves. The Germans did it at Babi Yar and Katyn Forest and elsewhere. Some soldiers who participated couldn't take it and committed suicide.

Saddam Hussein did it, and filled some 300-plus mass graves -- with new ones being periodically discovered.

It was done at Srebrenica, and in countless incidents in Cambodia.

True, the sealing season can't be compared with the above. But in a lesser way it is demeaning to kill animals in mass numbers for little reason. That's part of why Farley Mowat says he is "more at home with the non-human animals of this world ... because we have seen how abominably the human species treats other species."



The millions Ottawa spends subsidizing the seal hunt

Posted: April 17, 2008, 7:21 PM by Jeff White
keywords: bureaucracy, Defence, Murray Teitel, sealing, Coast Guard

By Murray Teitel

Sealer Approaches Seal
Photo: A sealer goes after a wounded seal. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

Whether you think killing seals is a bad thing or a good thing, whether you think it barbaric or humane, you should oppose Canada’s annual seal hunt.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) the justification for the hunt is to provide economic opportunities for Canada’s coastal communities. Last year, according to its Web site, this entire economic opportunity amounted to $12-million, the value of all seal pelts landed. They fetched on average $52 a pelt. According to evidence given to Parliament’s standing committee on fisheries and oceans on Nov. 6, 2006, half of that is eaten up by expenses, so we are talking, at most, $6-million that flowed to the sealers themselves: one-tenth of 1% of Newfoundland’s GDP. (This year it will be even less, because pelts of three to four week old “beaters” that make up 95% of the catch are selling for between $6 and $33.)

This $6-million costs Canadians at least 10 times as much and does so year after year. First of all, there is the cost of deploying the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) to the seal hunt for seven weeks each year. Last year it involved 10 vessels, many of them icebreakers, helicopters and patrol planes. Nobody in government knows, even less wants to know, what this costs. DFO claims it costs nothing because the boats and aircraft are owned and the crews are on salary. Does it cost nothing to put out fires in Toronto because it owns the trucks and firefighters aren’t on piecework? Toronto hires firefighters and buys trucks based on the anticipated number and severity of fires.

A significant part of what CCG does is rescue sealers. Some 24% of its 2003 fishing vessel rescues derived from this hunt. Without it, CCG’s annual budget could be significantly reduced. One hunt-deployed icebreaker, the Amundsen, costs $50,000 per day to operate in winter. Given DFO’s lack of transparency, one can only estimate the annual CCG cost attributable to the hunt at $5-million.

Secondly, every year some disaster occurs. Last year, it was heavy ice that trapped sealers for days on end. Some even ran out of cigarettes! DFO calculated the extra CCG costs due to heavy ice at $3.41-million. It also paid $7.9-million to owners of boats damaged by ice. This year, it is the drowning of four sealers and the near drowning of two while being rescued by CCG. This resulted in the cost of an unsuccessful week-long 2,800 nautical square mile search for one of the drowned and his boat involving patrol planes, helicopters and three icebreakers. The inevitable lawsuits and legal bills will easily cost more than $6-million.

Thirdly, millions are spent every year trying to counter bans on the importation of seal products. Our NAFTA partners and four European countries have imposed bans. Four countries have announced intentions to do so. Italy and Luxembourg have suspended imports. The European Parliament resolved to impose an EU-wide ban. The Council of Europe has called on its 46 members to do so.

Canada has taken Holland and Belgium to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Aside form being terribly expensive, it jeopardizes a relationship with two countries with which Canada has a trade surplus. $5.2-million of raw seal products constitutes less than 1/1,000 of what we export to Europe.

The DFO, since at least 2003, has been flying high-level delegations to Europe to argue against the bans. Last year, there were at least six such junkets. For example, on March 27, 2007, a 17-person delegation was dispatched to the British Parliament for a meeting attended by only five British MPs. Last month, seven Canadians, including Loyola Sullivan, ambassador for fisheries conservation, the Premier of Nunavut and a Newfoundland Cabinet minister flew to four European capitals for a week.

Unfortunately, they seem to use a travel agent who excels at finding the most expensive fares available. When Mr. Sullivan flew on seal business to five European capitals this January, the airfare alone was $10,270.80. The DFO’s Kevin Stringer flew to Paris for $4,459.65 on Sept. 5, 2007. Of course, this is nothing compared with the $16,025.25 spent on airfare to Australia and New Zealand by the DFO’s director general of economic analysis whom I wish would do an economic analysis of his own expense accounts. With hotels, wines, meals and support staff, this adds up.

They have as much chance of stemming this tide as Germany did of stopping the Allies after D Day. The battle is lost. But because of ideological fanaticism they keep fighting, secure in the delusion that the Canadian taxpayer, like the cod, is an inexhaustible resource that will forever fund this foolishness that only benefits the high-end European tourism industry.

Fourthly, there is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) led boycott that is largely responsible for the inflation adjusted $465-million drop in the value of Canadian exports of snow crabs — the main seafood export to the United States from Canada’s sealing provinces — since April, 2005. The value of 2007 snow crab exports is 44% lower than it was in 2004, the year prior to the boycott.

HSUS has to date persuaded almost 3,600 U.S. businesses to participate, including heavy hitters Publix (annual sales $24-billion), Whole Foods ($7-billion), WinCo Foods, Lowe’s Foods, Harris Teeter ($3-billion each) and smaller, seafood-driven ones like Legal Sea Foods ($400-million). Sealing creates less than 1% of the value of the sealing provinces’ fishery. Sacrifice 99% for the sake of 1%. Now there’s a business plan!

Finally, there is the cost of the DFO seal-hunt bureaucracy, which alone has to cost more than the sealers earn: license issuers, accountants, typists, file clerks, inspectors, quota setters, regulation drafters, “scientists,” “statisticians,” “economic analysts,” speech writers, media relations officers, anti-boycott propagandists, writers of replies to angry letters, arrangers of tours of European journalists (when the seal hunt is not taking place), all in the service of what DFO says is 5,000 to 6,000 (more like 2,000, I believe) people averaging $1,000 a year from killing 275,000 seals.

There is a conflict of interest in the DFO having jurisdiction over the Coast Guard. If it were controlled by the Minister of Defence, he’d immediately see that for what he is spending on the seal hunt, he could outfit an artillery regiment.

Enough already. This is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. And the sealers? Sealers should prefer these monies be used to train them for jobs in the 21st-century economy, rather than to preserve them as relics of a hunter/gatherer one.

Financial Post
Murray Teitel is a Toronto lawyer and journalist.



Canada's seal hunt
Who's the pirate?

Apr 17th 2008 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition
A public-relations coup for animal-rights activists

HIS ship flies a flag that looks suspiciously like the skull and crossbones. But Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an animal-welfare group known for its aggressive tactics, says it's the Canadian government that is guilty of piracy after a unit of the national police boarded and seized one of the society's ships off Canada's east coast on April 12th.

Just where the Farley Mowat, a Dutch-registered yacht being used by the society to protest against Canada's annual seal hunt, was at the time is in dispute. Mr Watson, who was not on board, claims the skirmish happened in international waters, making it an act of piracy. To make his point, he paid half the C$10,000 ($10,000) bail for its captain and first officer in C$2 coins, calling them dubloons. Loyola Hearn, the federal fisheries minister, insists that it was in Canadian waters, claiming that the “money-sucking manipulators” were endangering seal hunters on the ice floes.

The ship's GPS navigation unit, now in police hands, will eventually yield the truth. But Mr Watson and his group have already scored their public-relations coup. Videos of the seizure and arrests, interspersed with gory scenes of hunters clubbing seals to death, flooded television newscasts and sprouted on the internet. Many featured close-ups of cuddly, white-coated pups, although their killing has been banned since 1987.

This year's hunt for 275,000 harp seals and 8,200 hooded seals was supposed to be conducted under new, more humane rules aimed at making it more palatable to tender-hearted Europeans. That, however, now seems to be a lost cause; the EU is already considering a ban on all seal products from Canada.

Mr Watson, whose group helped disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic earlier this year, co-founded Greenpeace but left because he disagreed with its policy of non-violence. He now wants to hold a public debate with the fisheries minister together with the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, where many sealers live. “Hey, it could be fun and the public can judge the merits of our arguments much better,” he says.

The Canadian government is likely to have the last laugh. It is holding the Farley Mowat in an east coast port while fisheries officials investigate, after which a separate team from the transport department will start inspecting it for safety deficiencies. It may be some time before the yacht sails the high seas again.



The New Canadian Government Rules - A New Ruse

Diana Marmorstein, Ph.D.
March 27, 2008

Years ago, the Canadian government claimed the seal ‘hunt’ was humane – and then added the ‘blinking eye test’ requirement to make sure that the harp seal pups weren’t alive when they were skinned. Still, observers from IFAW, HSUS, Sea Shepherd, and other organizations have documented hundreds of cases of sealers going on their usual rampage across the ice, bashing in the heads of seal pups, one after the other, and later coming back to skin them, without ever stopping to check that they’re dead. Quantity makes the slaughter worthwhile to the sealers, so speed is of the essence.

Now, despite repeated claims that the annual massacre of over 250,000 baby seals is humane, the Canadian government has added another requirement – the severing of the pup’s arteries. Yet they still haven’t addressed the basic issue that several thousand sealers, spread out over hundreds of square miles, are killing and skinning hundreds of thousands of seal pups in just a few days – with minimal monitoring. They haven’t dealt with the fact that the seals on the Front that are shot (aiming for the head) are often wounded and then retrieved by sealers in boats with hooks plunged into their mouths, without regard to whether the seals are dead yet. They haven’t addressed the suffering that can last for hours in either phase of the ‘hunt’, between the injury and the final death of the seal pup. They haven’t considered the lingering deaths of thousands of seals that are wounded but slip away only to bleed to death or drown.

What’s more, the Canadian government still refuses to acknowledge that the seal population is in jeopardy as a result of global warming. Just as the polar bears of the Arctic region and the penguins of Antarctica are facing a dire future as the oceans warm and the ice melts, so the harp seals and other ice seals are in trouble as the sea ice they depend on for whelping becomes thinner, less stable, and less reliable from year to year.

Despite this uncertain future, the Canadian government is allowing as many seals to be killed as were killed in the 1960’s, when their population plummeted to levels so low that the government was forced to institute a quota in 1971. It’s interesting that, whenever the Canadian government refers to the increase in the seal population, it compares the current estimate to the dangerously low population in 1970. And the government always neglects to mention that the killing rate that led to this sharp decline in the 1960’s was about the same as it is now and that the population rose only after years of reduced killing that resulted from the ban on whitecoat pelts into Europe.

I believe that few Americans will be duped by Canadian propaganda. So far, thanks to American consumers and thousands of American restaurants that are participating in the Canadian seafood boycott, the Canadian fishing industry, which is behind the seal ‘hunt’, has suffered tens of millions of dollars in export losses. This will undoubtedly be in the minds of the fishermen as they begin to kill seals on Friday in the first phase of the slaughter. Eventually, they will realize that as the seals die so do their hopes for a financially secure future.



End the awful seal hunting

Saturday, March 29, 2008
Paula Moore

When the annual seal slaughter gets underway in Canada — and by the time you read this, it’s likely that the first seals are already being clubbed and shot — sealers will have to follow new guidelines aimed at making the hunt less cruel. For example, sealers will be required to make sure that seals are dead before skinning them.

Talk about setting the bar low.

Am I the only one who feels that if sealers have to be told to ensure that animals are actually dead before ripping the skins off their bodies, perhaps they’re in the wrong business?

Yet we know from eyewitness accounts of past hunts that, yes, such things really do have to be spelled out for some sealers.

Observers of previous hunts have seen conscious baby seals stabbed with boat hooks and dragged across the ice. They’ve seen dying seals huddled together next to dead ones on the ice and terrified survivors crawling through the carnage.

They’ve seen wounded pups left to choke on their own blood as hunters rush to attack the next scampering victim.

And one Washington Post reporter saw this: “A seal appears to gasp for air, blood running from its nose as it lies on an ice floe.

“Not far away, a sealer sharpens his knife blade. The seal seems to be thrashing as its fur is sliced from its torso.”

Even now, with the new guidelines in place — and the eyes of the world upon them — some sealers are making excuses for why they can’t always check to see if seals are dead. If the ice is thin, one sealer told Canada’s National Post, “then you got to retrieve your seal and check them in your boat. They got to be retrieved by the hakapik or whatever.”

I’m sorry, but impaling baby animals in the jaw with a hook and lifting them onto boats — without knowing if they are dead or at least unconscious — does not fit anyone’s definition of “humane.”

And let’s get one thing straight here: While hunters object to calling these seals “babies,” that’s what they are. Sealers are not allowed to kill “whitecoats,” seals who still have their white natal fur.

But seals are only white for 12 days or so. So chasing down 13-day-old seals and beating them to death is just fine. At least if you’re a sealer.

To the rest of us, it’s anything but — and the international community is starting to speak out.

Belgium and the Netherlands have passed laws banning the importation of seal fur, oil and other products. The European Union is considering similar legislation.

Even most Canadians are appalled by this cruel hunt — at least, that is, the ones who know about it. In a 2005 article, Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham reported that according to one study, 60 percent of Canadians are “blissfully unaware that the seal hunt still exists.”

This is one instance in which ignorance is not bliss. Everyone who is aware that the seal hunt continues needs to take action to stop it.

We can start by making sure that there is no demand for fur — not seal fur, not rabbit fur, not any fur.

Because anyone who wears a fox-fur stole or a jacket with rabbit trim is helping to create an environment in which fur — all fur — is acceptable.

Next, tell Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (his e-mail address is easily available online) that it’s time to put an end to this shameful spectacle once and for all.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front Street, Norfolk, Va. 23510; www.FurIsDead.com. Information about PETA’s funding may be found at www.peta.org/about/numbers.asp. (Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.)






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