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Canada's seal hunt to proceed amid criticism, but with some support

Seal

Canada has its reasons for allowing the slaughter of more than 300,000 seals during an annual hunt that remains in progress in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One is to thin the population of mammals that deplete certain stocks of fish.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement that Canada's harp, gray and hooded seal population totals about 6.4 million, or triple what it was in the 1970s.

Thus, so the reasoning goes, thousands need to be culled so 12,000 fishermen can continue making a living (and so the furry pelts can be sold overseas for handsome profit). Critics of what many label a barbaric practice abound. But there are supporters, including scientists, who say the killings are justified, that seals are a renewable resource. 

Freelance writer Charles W. Moore, in a story for the Chronicle Herald, wrote: "Aside from sentimental idiocy fostered by the cuteness of whitecoat seal pups (which, as noted, haven’t been hunted in Canada since 1987), there is no rational reason not to hunt seals, and bringing the seal population down from its current record levels is ecologically beneficial."

Interestingly, the same could be said of California sea lions off the West Coast of the United States. They number about 300,000, up from 10,000 in the 1950s, and are believed to be at or close to historic highs. They've impacted salmon runs and are a constant nuisance and threat to the livelihoods of fishermen.

Many fishermen in the U.S., undoubtedly, would favor a widespread culling. But any politician or fisheries chief who values his or her career would never support the shooting and clubbing of thousands of mammals perceived by the majority of the populace to be cute and too intelligent to murder.

(There has been small-scale culling recently off the Pacific Northwest to protect endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead runs.)

Seal2

Moore's premise is this: "Sentimentality, in the form of sappy animal rights ideology, is all the anti-seal hunting movement and money machine are based on, with no scientific fact or conservation reality supporting their contentions that seals are either endangered or treated less humanely than livestock killed in slaughterhouses to stock supermarket shelves."

But there's a difference between seals and cows: The former are creatures of the wild, with the ability to think and learn.

(This is certainly true of sea lions, which have learned, among other things, that the dropping of a sportfishing boat's anchor is akin to a dinner bell; they can steal a hooked fish from a hook without getting hooked and some captains believe they teach this tactic to their young.)

As for cows, they're raised specifically for dairy purposes or to be processed for meat and wouldn't be among us otherwise. So comparing seals to livestock cows is, if you'll pardon the cliche, like comparing apples and oranges.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos are handouts from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, depicting the ongoing hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada.

 
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Comments (41)

I'm shocked, sad and furious about such a cruel doing!
You will have to pay for it one day for sure! God is watching over you.
You should be ashamed!

Thanks, Confucious! Same to you.

Calvin

I'd like to take what Charles W. Moore said a little further: "Aside from sentimental idiocy fostered by the cuteness of fat little babies (which, as noted, haven’t been legally hunted in the world in a very long time), there is no rational reason not to hunt human babies, and bringing the human population down from its current record levels is ecologically beneficial."

My premise would be this: "Sentimentality, in the form of sappy human rights ideology, is all the anti-human hunting movement and money machine are based on, with no scientific fact or conservation reality supporting their contentions that humans are either endangered or treated less humanely than livestock killed in slaughterhouses to stock supermarket shelves."

What if we managed humans with the thoughtless, callous, inhumane arrogance with which we attempt to "manage" other living beings?


Calvin,

There are crazy racist environmentalists here and they will not use reason or logic. It sounds like we have a lot more in common than I thought. Well, I guess you just one another supporter. Good hunting to you and your friends.

Have a great weekend.

Does anyone here bother to read any facts before uttering wishes of death upon people!? Whitecoats have NOT been killed since 1987! The Hakapik was deemed HUMANE by the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND! Killing is killing there is no nice way to do it. If you eat any kind of meat at all you and complain about this hunt you are an out right hypocrite. Oh and you should probably stop wearing your leather coats, boots, and gloves.

Of course it looks messy! Have you ever spilled spaghetti on your shirt? Red on white! High contrast!

Some of you people disgust me with your lack of rationality.

Hi Confucious,

I really do understand the reaction most people have to the issue and your idea about having people move on to other industries, although well intentioned, simply isn't realistic. I also appreciate the tone of the discussion. (Sometimes it does get nasty so thanks for not taking it in that direction) I too work in an office these days and get away to hunt and fish when I can. I do all my hunting with a bow now as I find it much more challenging and thrilling. I think we would probably agree on a lot of things, including this issue. I think the only reason we don' is that I have intimate first hand knowledge of the seal hunt while most people in other parts of the world have received their education on the issue from animal rights extremists that flood the media with disturbing images and misinformation. That being said, here's my take on the points you've raised.

First of all, other than the emotional reaction most of us have to killing the cute and the young, there simply isn't any scientific reason to suspend this slaughter. The population is stronger than it's ever been and continues to grow at an estimated 12% per year, even with increased quotas to sealers. With this in mind, why should it be stopped? It is a renewable natural resource that provides perfectly natural products from the ultimate "free range" animal. They are not caged, raised in captivity, or given growth hormones. As for it being greed, well, is it greedy to simply want to provide for your family? You may not know the numbers involved so I'll give you an idea of what our income was like when I was a sealer/fisherman. The ocean is frozen here until late March-early April. We'd spend the winter mending gear, fixing boats, that sort of thing. Seals were the first species we went after in the spring. Our annual income, depending on how the season went, could run anywhere from $25000-$40000 although most times it was around the $30k mark. Depending on the price of seals $5k-$10k of this came from that hunt. That's a significant portion and many of the fishermen in this area would not get by without it. You also question the eating of the carcass. It may be hard to tell from the picture but there is very little meat on the carcass you see there. As with chickens, pheasants, grouse, the bulk of the meat on a seal, particular of this age and size, is right at the chest area around the front flippers. This is taken from just about every seal killed. I can't speak for everyone but it is common practice on every vessel I have been on. The flippers are then sold at local markets. If the businesses "Bidgood's" or "Taylor's Fish Market" in Newfoundland have websites you should be able to see the product advertised there when it's in season. If there are no websites just call them and they'll confirm that the flippers are in fact sold there. The seals may look very large and fat but the majority of the remaining bulk is blubber. This remains attached to the pelt and is sold with it. I know they make some medical products from the oil in the blubber but I'm not sure what they are. As for the fishermen becoming farmers, I think you'd have to look at some pictures of the northeast coast of Newfoundland to understand why theat cannot ever happen. Nothing grows there except moss and evergreen trees! What isn't swamp is rock and barren land. It looks like the arctic tundra in my hometown. And yes, although some of the other posters may argue to the contrary, all the seals killed have left their mothers. Yes, they are young, ususlly less than 3 months old, but they are living on their own and catching their own fish. In fact, if the one in the picture was still dependent on the mother, then where is the mom? We don't kill them because we can't sell them and they are not a danger to us so she wouldn't have been killed by the sealer so where is she? I'm sure if she were there they would include her in the photo as this makes a more compelling picture.

As I said before, I can't argue with emotion. Some people will never agree with the hunt simply becaue of the emotional raction they have to it. That is certainly their perogative and I understand it completely. I do believe that the rest of us have to base our decisions on the best possible scientific information possible and for me that means allowing this hunt to continue. I do not believe that putting thousands of people out of work and allowing a animal population of 6 million individuals to grow unchecked solely on the basis of emotion is a resaonable course of action. If you still disagree all I can say is thanks for the discussion. I don't actually bump into that many people like you who are willing to carry on an open dialogue about it.

Have a great weekend.

Calvin

Fur must be treated with chemicals so it won't bio-degrade, unless you keep and wear it strictly in sub-zero temps. If not chemically treated it would naturally start to rot right away. Most fur-wearers have to put their fur in a cold storage off-season. It's certainly far from being green apparel.

Calvin, for the record, I love the outdoors. I used to skydive, scuba dive, hunt and fish. I used to go pheasant & quail hunting and still go deep sea fishing whenever I can get away from the office. But when I kill, I eat my kill. The part that bothers me about the seal hunt is that the killing is done for skin. I read that the carcasses are left to rot. In my opinion, we should only kill what we need or eat.

I'm just asking, do we really need to kill or is it greed that leads us to kill the seals?

PS. Why not turn those fishermen into farmers and they would make more money. haha

maybe those who condemn our seal hunt should take a long hard look at themselves and their own countries.

and by that I mean just how many innocent Iraqi women and children were murdered by US soldiers?

Calvin - I tried to verify what you said about the seals being "completely independent when they are killed". These are the actual facts:

Canadian fishermen have killed over 19,000 seal PUPS in just 3 days. Hundreds of thousands of BABY seals will be killed in 2009. The Canadian seal hunt is the Largest Slaughter of Marine Mammals in the World. The Canadian government has set the quota on killing harp seals at 280,000 animals in 2009.

Most will be PUPS between 3 weeks and 3 months of age.

Seventy percent of the seals slaughtered will die in the second phase of the seal 'hunt' on 'The Front' (waters east of Newfoundland and Labrador). The rest will be killed in the first phase of the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

This is in addition to a quota of 8,200 hooded seals and 50,000 grey seals, ALSO PUPS. In February, hundreds of grey seal PUPS were already killed in Cape Breton when a buyer was found for their fur.

These figures do not include seals who are injured by sealers, but escape, probably dying in the ocean.

I'm sorry the truth doesn't fit the image YOU have of this slaughter.

DMG - Polar bears ARE dying a slow painful death. Due to global warming, the ice that they depend on has deminished. More polar bears are seen on land than ever before. Their habitat is being destroyed and people like Sarah Palin don't think they are endangered. She simply wants them gone so her hunting party will be more successful.

You say you have no desire to "club a baby seal" but refuse to indulge in our outrage when it would put you at odds with the natural order itself. I have a newsflash for you. This isn't natural. Clubbing (or even shooting with a rifle) is hardly something from nature. Nature allows killing but it's done out of necessity for food and survival. What makes it honorable (in nature) is the fact that it is a FAIR FIGHT. Two animals fight for survival and the ultimate outcome is that ONE OF THEM SURVIVES.

Where in nature do you see an animal kill another animal for fun - or better yet - for it's fur??

One last thought, it's interesting to hear how you speak about vegetarians as if they are evil: "call yourself vegetarians as you eat produce harvested from vast death lands that were once thriving ecosystems".

My garden is a VAST DEATH LAND?? Some bugs and maybe a few rodents were killed in planting vegetables and that horrifies you???

It's too bad that so many people can justify killing seals, wolves and other animals due to their overpopulation. But humans just keep on breeding......

Confucius - I can't argue with emotion. I can only tell you what I have observed from growing up in one of these communities. I'm sorry the truth doesn't fit the image you have of this slaughter. Everything I've stated is easily verified, including the independence of the seals that are killed.

And yes, lots of people in Canada smoke pot :) You do at least have that part right.

Calvin says "where do you get the fish from if men stop fishing?"
- Are you saying that if the fishermen don't bash the heads of seals or shoot them, they can't fish? They must be some horrible fishermen. Find a new job.

"What would happen if we drive more and more people from the area?"
-What was there before the people moved into the area?

"we have problems with drug smuggling"
-Canada? The place where everyone smokes pot? You have drug problems?

"As for babies, I don't agree with the terminology"
-OK, maybe you're right, but I believe that we both agree that they are very young.

"These animals are completely independent when they are killed"
-Hahahaha... I had to laugh at that one. That's a good one.

"next time you guy a jacket made from petroleum based products ask yourself if it will ever bio-degrade"
-Given enough time, everything will degrade. Fur just degrades faster.

This is what they call "the most" from the outdoors? We should send Sarah Palin out in barefoot with a harpoon to fight a polar bear mano' a mano'. That would be the most.

Confucius says "We still kill baby seals? And for what? So that few fishermen can fish? I'm for population control, but why go after babies?"

The fishermen involved make modest livings in a very remote part of the world. Without the income from sealing they would have to abandon the fishery entirely. This may not sound like such a big deal but there are implications to this that you my not envision. For instance, where do you get the fish from if men stop fishing? Do we open up fish farms all along the coast? At what evironmental cost? Fish farms are notorious for destroying local ecosystems because the high population density wreaks havoc with the environment. As you can imagine they attract diseases simply because they are packed in so closely and they eat and defecate in the same small area. These diseases have then been spreading to wild populations. The fish farms in the Pacific northwest have had these problems and are still struggling to find solutions.

In addition, I think there are security issues involved in abandoning coastal towns. If we force people to leave these small communities then significant portions of Canada's longest coastline will remain unoccupied. It is already sparsely populated and we have problems with drug smuggling. What would happen if we drive more and more people from the area? I don't know and I don't want to find out.

As for babies, I don't agree with the terminology. Babies are dependent upon their mothers. These animals are completely independent when they are killed. They've been banished by their mothers for a month or more. Are they young? Yes, but so are all the chickens we kill. Futhermore, the young have a 30% mortality rate so for every 3 seals killed one would have died anyway. To me this seems a better conservation technique than killing the strongest. It would seem to me that these are the inviduals we want surviving so they can pass on their genes. I think as compassionate people most of us would prefer to protect the young but I also believe that we have to be aware that nature takes the weakest first. If we only take the strong and leave the weak we are doing the population more harm than good.

I can certainly understand how most people are disturbed by the killing these beautful animals but I think we need to bear in mind that there are millions of them, that they are a renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly resource, and that they are a vital part of local economies. There aren't a lot of industries that can make that claim. In fact, the next time you guy a jacket made from petroleum based products ask yourself if it will ever bio-degrade. It will not. Every fur jacket in the world will return to the soil from which it came...

Adam,

You're right to say that killing a captive raised cow is no less tragic than killing a wild seal. Some would argue, though, that you need to kill and eat cows to survive—you don't, of course.

But nobody needs to wear a fur coat nowadays, with the possible exception of indigenous peoples. Even still, the Mohawk Traditional Council is in support of Canadian Senator Mac Harb's bill to end the seal massacre.

We still kill baby seals? And for what? So that few fishermen can fish? I'm for population control, but why go after babies? I thought Canadians were more civil.

"DMD writes " I would not begrudge you your faults so greatly if you only had the self-reflection to spare these fishermen from your righteous indignation, nor would I be half so indignant with you myself."

I have to compliment you on perhaps the most elegant and eloguent post I've had the pleasure of reading. Thanks for the great read!

Calvin"

I agree wholeheartedly! The guy or gal is definitely a wordsmith WITH intelligent content! Wow!

"As for cows, they're raised specifically for dairy purposes or to be processed for meat and wouldn't be among us otherwise. So comparing seals to livestock cows is, if you'll pardon the cliche, like comparing apples and oranges."

Cows are living breathing animals. Seals are living breathing animals. To say that killing a captive raised cow is any less tragic than killing a wild seal is asinine in my opinion.

And just because I say it's tragic doesn't mean I'm against it either.

Money talks, and the demand for seal pelts is evaporating. The USA has banned all seal products since 1972, and the Globe & Mail newspaper in Toronto labelled fur a "sunset industry." Economics will be what brings a merciful end to this abomination.

DMD writes " I would not begrudge you your faults so greatly if you only had the self-reflection to spare these fishermen from your righteous indignation, nor would I be half so indignant with you myself."

I have to compliment you on perhaps the most elegant and eloguent post I've had the pleasure of reading. Thanks for the great read!

Calvin

Some quick facts:

1) I was a sealer for 15 years.

2) Only 5% of all seals killed are taken with a hakapik ("club" as some of you call it). The other 95% are killed with a rifle.

3) I have never seen a whitecoated seal. They have lost the coat and left their mothers by the time the hunt starts.

4) There are over 6 million seals off the east coast of Canada today. That's more than 3 times the 1.8 million there were in the 1980's when the ban against taking whitecoats came into effect. They are not now nor have they ever been endangered. Check it out.

5) We made 30-35% of our income from sealing, not the 5% suggested here.

Killing is always distasteful and morally hazardarous, even if just killing for food.

If these guys are killing something just to kill, take the coat and leave the meat, I can guarantee that these guys are going to hell.

Why not just have a battle Royale amongst the fishermen themselves to reduce their own number and increase the fish bounty? It would be so much more efficient.

There is NO way to justify the killing of 300,000 seals a year, 98% being under 3 months old and as young as 12 days old. These off-season fishermen only make FIVE PERCENT of their income by murdering these seals. There was a study done and the results concluded that in one year, 42% of the seals were SKINNED ALIVE. They even leave the flesh on the ice to ROT.
The U.S. buys 70% of all seafood exports from these fishermen. The fishermen will realize the demand to stop this if there is a decrease in sales (along with petitioning and things like that). RED LOBSTER restaurant buys from the Canadian fishermen also.
I have started a paper petition to Ministries of Fisheries and Red Lobster and I hope to receive 1,000 signatures and hope that will help end this brutal slaughter.
Please don't buy Canadian seafood! Check for COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABEL on products in grocery stores!!

For you who complain, do you also believe that polar bears should die a slow painful death for killing to eat? Maybe great whites? Or, maybe even the seals themselves which eat fish? I abhor the inconsistency and hypocrisy of those who decry the "evil" of humans killing animals, yet profess to be admirers of a natural world that functions on those exact principles. While you claim to be conservationists, it is likely only a matter of time before you find the distasteful aspects of nature in need of some "remedy." I have no desire to "club a baby seal" but I refuse to indulge in your outrage when it would put me at odds with the natural order itself. You live, breath, and eat in human civilization surrounded by concrete, air conditioning, and grocery stores. Hence, when confronted with the natural order you find it cruel and you call it cruel, when it fact, it is not acting without purpose or solely to cause pain, but in conformity with the principle that governs all of us material beings - eat and be eaten. I detest waste, causing pain for no purpose, and the general destruction of the natural world before the sterile swath of industrialized human society. I detest your highways of death, power lines, and corporate farming which induce harm to millions of animals each year so you can get your new, non-leather shoes delivered on time, chat inanities on the phone, and call yourself vegetarians as you eat produce harvested from vast death lands that were once thriving ecosystems. Yet, I would not begrudge you your faults so greatly if you only had the self-reflection to spare these fishermen from your righteous indignation, nor would I be half so indignant with you myself.

 

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