This Thursday marks the official start of Newfoundland's and Labrador's spring seal-slaughtering season. More than two thousand seals have been killed so far this year. Many more will be clubbed or shot before sealers hook them in the eye, cheek or mouth and drag them across the ice floes off Canada's east coast. Some will be skinned while they are still alive. Each one of them is a victim of the Canadian government's desperate efforts to keep the failing sealing industry afloat. Many had hoped that the seal slaughter would not happen this year. The Canadian government's decision to go ahead with this annual bloodbath – despite the fact that there is no longer any market for seal fur – makes no economic sense.
What should have been the final nail in the coffin of the seal slaughter came last December when Russia – which had been buying 95% of Canadian seal pelts – joined the EU, Mexico and the US in banning seal-fur imports. Russian president Vladimir Putin has called seal hunting a "bloody business that should have been banned long ago" and later ended seal imports after Pamela Anderson led an international appeal on behalf. In September, the EU rejected an obviously orchestrated attempt by the Canadian government, in its challenge of the EU ban on seal products, to play the "native Canadian Inuit" card. But the Inuit live far from "the front" – the area where the mass commercial slaughter takes place – and are responsible for only about 3% of Canada's annual seal kill. The EU already exempts Inuit seal products from the ban.
The seal slaughter most definitely doesn't continue because of support in Canada. Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Canadians are opposed to the slaughter. Millions in taxpayer money are being wasted to prop up this dying industry. The federal government pours up to CAN$7m (£4.4m) a year into maintaining an industry that nets only about $1m. While seal pelts used to earn sealers more than $100 each, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported that in 2010, pelts were sold for only about $20 to $25. At this rate, sealers can hardly cover their operating costs.
Very few sealers took part in the 2011 slaughter, and they killed less than 10% of the 400,000-seal quota. One of the largest seal-processing companies, NuTan Furs, has just announced that it will not buy any seal pelts this year. The Canadian government has been trying to peddle seal products in China, but groups like PETA Asia have been working hard to ensure that doesn't happen. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador even just announced it would provide $3.6m in financing for a fur processor.
So why does the Canadian government still allow thousands of seals to be slaughtered in such barbaric ways, squandering millions in tax dollars and staining the country's international reputation in the process? It likely won't surprise you to learn that the answer is politics. Both the liberal and conservative parties are desperate to control the swing seats in Newfoundland. But now even Canadian politicians are openly questioning the slaughter. Ryan Cleary, a member of the Canadian parliament who represents one of the regions in which the seal slaughter takes place, summed up the general feeling when he acknowledged: "Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped. Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be".
That day has come, in fact it's long overdue. It's more important now than ever for people to speak out against this cruelty.
April 12, 2012
Letters to the Editor
Robo-seals a cause for concern?
Some sealers are getting their knickers in a twist over robotic baby seals being used to comfort residents at two senior care centres in Montreal.
If sealers find baby seals so threatening, they should probably sit out this year's seal hunt.
While killing whitecoats is illegal killing baby seals is not. Seal pups can legally be killed as soon as they begin molting their white natal fur, when they are about 12 days old.
The difference between bashing in the head of a 12-day-old seal and bashing in the head of a 13-day-old seal is lost on most people.
Now that Russia, which had been buying 95% of Canadian seal fur, has joined the European Union and the United States in banning seal-fur imports, the few remaining sealers should start looking for something else to do.
Perhaps they could volunteer their time at a local senior centre.
The PETA Foundation Norfolk, Va.
Published on February 25, 2011
The Nova Scotia grey seal slaughter in the protected Scaterie Island Wilderness Area on Hay Island is inhumane, harmful to the ecosystem, provides almost no economic benefit, and is an embarrassment to the province and country. The government must end this horrific slaughter and allow our damaged oceans to recover.
A lack of ice and increased storm activity this year is putting grey seal pups at risk. Grey seals give birth both on sea ice and on land. Due to the effects of climate change, ice flows in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are steadily declining. Experts predict that 2011 could see the lowest sea ice formation on record off our east coast.
Grey seals are struggling to recover from nearly being wiped out because of reckless overkilling by the sealing industry.
In recent years, the population has slowly been increasing, but grey seal numbers are still dangerously low. Commercial seal killing is the greatest threat to their survival.
The controversial decision to open Hay Island to sealers followed intensive lobbying of the federal and provincial government from the fishing industry as if nature’s balance could be restored by killing seals. The truth is that commercial fishermen kill grey seal pups for their fur, which is sold in foreign fashion markets.
Many independent scientific experts conclude that seals are a vital part of the ecosystem and should be protected. There is not a shred of credible scientific evidence, anywhere in the world, that suggests a mass slaughter would be beneficial to the oceans.
Not only is the grey seal slaughter environmentally destructive, it is inhumane. Thousands of baby seals are clubbed to death with wooden bats while other helpless baby seals watch, only to face the same fate a few moments later.
Hay Island has abundant wildlife. The lure of whale and seal watching makes it one of the most beautiful ecotourism destinations in the world.
Yet by amending the Nova Scotia Wilderness Areas Protection Act to allow the commercial slaughter, and by working to find buyers for the seal products, the Nova Scotia government has put Cape Breton’s tourism industry at risk and tarnished the region’s international image.
For our economy, our oceans and the seals, it is time that government, fishers and citizen groups stand together to end this cruel and shameful slaughter once and for all.
Rebecca Aldworth, executive director
Humane Society International/Canada
Published on February 13, 2012
Post Seal Fur Ribbons on Parliament Hill and the suggestion of some, that it may be time to say good bye - what do fishermen say about the state of the Canadian seal hunt?
Topics : Sealers Association , Canadian Seal Association , Discovery Channel , Canada , Atlantic Ocean , Ottawa
Conway Caines: I don't know, but it's going to be devastating. Especially on this coast, when the ice and cod fish come down through. They're going to eat cod fish, crab, lobsters; everything.
James Dobbin: I mean seals are real scavengers. It's making a big difference in the fishery. We had a cod fishery here and it's been shut down for twenty three years and it's not coming back on the count of the seals! There's no fishery going on, so it's got to be the seals doing it [eating all the cod].
They just don't care [anti-seal hunt groups]. I mean IFAW using pictures they took twenty five years ago of white coats and showing them. Nobody knows the difference. They're showing lies and defaming the sealers. Everybody went through training to become professional sealers."
Q: What kind of training?
James Dobbin: We've had the fisheries and the scientist come in and give us a three step killing program: how to humanely kill seals. Then, animal rights groups coming and doing what they like. For years we were told they weren't allowed within half a mile of the herd with those helicopters, and they're coming in and flying right over em. They're out amongst the herd when they're pupping; they're destroying more seals than the sealers.
Q: How do seal numbers impact the rest of ocean life?
James Dobbin: It eats everything! Everything we catch. We are people, and we live up here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and we got to fight with a seal, for a codfish, to put on our plate.
**insert James Dobbin picture here
Q: Do you think MP's wearing seal fur ribbons today in Ottawa, will help the Seal Industry?
Donald Spence: It isn't too late, if the government would try and do something. Try to help the sealers. I mean it's not gone. The seals are still here - we need to keep them under control. There are a dozen things they can do: put out subsidies, support companies so they can support sealers, just got to do some brain storming and come up with some ideas.
Q: As someone who knows this product, what would you suggest government do to make seal marketable, once more?
James Dobbin: Work harder to gain Chinese markets. They will use the meat, the pelts and the fat. Every part of the seal, the Chinese will use it.
**insert seal boot picture here
Q: Do you think seal could be marketable here in Canada?
James Dobbin: Yes. Before, in Fleur de Lys, they made salami, and different stuff with seal meat. They had lots of product developed, and ready for market. Some people just didn't like the look of the meat; it's dark meat. And with animal rights putting the pressure on, big stores wouldn't take it.
They had a couple tractor trailer loads of sausage, sent it to Ontario, and they loved it there. We should have been building on it ever since, instead we just let it go. Besides that, the Federal government wouldn't help much.
You know, the seal hunt was gone one time before and the Canadian Seal Association revived it.
Q: You said "they didn't like the way the meat looked." It seems this battle has always been about the way the seal looks. How does that make you feel?
James Dobbin: It's just animal rights came up with that cute and cuddly stuff. Not us. "When we look at a seal we see money" [BLOCK QUOTE]. I mean this is a big part of our livelihood. As we sit here right now, it is dying underneath our feet along with the rest of the fishery. I mean the Government is destroying out port Newfoundland. They're cutting the fisheries right to the bone. This year our turbot fishery is caught back to a five day fishery, halibut is down to a twenty-four hour fishery! It's not in days anymore, it's in hours. We got about four days fishing comin' up to make a livin' for the summer. With the seal hunt gone? That was one of our main starts for the spring of the year.
Q: What is the biggest problem the sealing in industry is facing right now?
Everyone: the markets
Q: Would you argue that if it weren't for negative imagery, seal would still be a marketable product?
Dean Offrey: Yes. It [imagery] is what turned away the markets. They all gave up, because it was a bad name, they were scared of losing other fisheries. Look at what they did to Canada; they weren't going to buy other products if it was associated with seal. It's blackmail.
Q: Do you think the damage can be undone?
Dean Offrey: It's never too late. There will always be someone who wants it [seal].
Clifford Dobbin: They did before. They got the markets back. We couldn't sell em [seals] for a couple of years and then they went up to one hundred and five dollars. It is possible to turn it right around again. And with the government's help we can do it.
Q: When you say "with the government's help" do you mean provincial, federal?
Clifford Dobbin: All levels of government.
Q: Who is the voice of the fishermen right now?
Clifford Dobbin: The Canadian Sealers Association. It's the only voice we've got.
Q: Who is responsible for the bleak state of the industry?
James Dobbin: Government. They let em in, to the killing fields. That's where the bad imagery came from. We've been at the government for years and asking them not to give them the permits to go out there. But the government kept issuing it, saying "we've got nothing to hide" and keep letting em go in. And so, they kept letting em go until they stopped the seal hunt."
Q: Are you angry?
James Dobbin: Yes. This would not have happened nowhere else in the world, only here in Canada. No where's else in the world, would any government put up with what we've put up with over the years. Out trying to hunt and helicopters flying around, down in ya workplace, cameras pointing at ya all the time and the government giving em permission to do it.
Maybe the sealers should have taken it into their own hands and drove em out ourselves. But we couldn't because we would have been charged.
Q: Why haven't the sealers been more vocal?
Clifford Dobbin: We should have been. We should have been rioting, demonstrating. I mean we've seen green peace come in spray painting, burning boats. Do what you got to do, close down government buildings; we've got to do it. We've don't it for other fisheries, so why not for the seals.
Q: But is it too late?
Clifford Dobbin: In my mind it is never too late. As long as it's still open and it's a viable industry than we can still do it. We can start next week.
We've been too quiet. We sit back and take it. We've always expected our union, our government to do something for us, but in reality it never happens."
Donald Spence: That's the problem, unions and government. The union and government say, they'll take care of it. But it's crap. We get bullied into it. At the end of the day every fishery we're into... the union says, "This is what we are going to do for you. You stay here and we will report back to you."
What have they [Fishermen's Union] accomplished? Nothing, as far as I am concerned.
If we don't step up, nothing will be done. Like you [Clifford Dobbin] said about Green Peace, they can go spray paint, through pies in people's faces, what's any worse than that? I mean we're sensible people compared to them.
You know I'm here trying' to make a living', killing a few seals to support my family. Take Green Peace, or anyone who is against the seal hunt, John Furlong, put him in my shoes for one full year, when the spring rolls around next year he will be waiting on the deck of my boat with a hakipik in his hands, ready to go sealing.
Sealing makes me a little bit of money for me to get going. When you're talking a four day fishery? I mean get real, grow up. People have got to realise the situation we are into.
Q: IFAW has argued the amount of money sealers make is not enough to sustain the industry, what do you think about that?
Donald Spence: It [money from hunt] supports our family and our crew. We're pretty much all family in these rural communities; we're keeping each other alive through this seal hunt. And, they are regulating us to death. I'm out with a boat and there's a helicopter watching me, there's a camera pointed in my face. Honestly, I don't know what to do half the time. When I go out sealing, it's worth your while to go out in my boat and see the amount of papers I have to go through. You've got to have fifteen years college to get through the papers to read them, the way they are worded out. It's amazing!
Q: Do you think the paper work you go through compares to other forms of animal husbandry?
Donald Spence: No. Watch the Discovery Channel, the Swamp Show. What are they doing there? They're coming up an alligator and hooking it. But, it's not on white ice.
Clifford Dobbin: One of our main reasons, here in Newfoundland, why we [fishermen] haven't fought as hard as we could have is because the sealers never cooperated themselves - might as well just say it. I mean the Canadians Sealers Association is here representing six thousand sealers and we've got an organization going that's supposed to be self-sustainable and we've got four hundred or so registered - that's how many people paid into the seal hunt.
Twenty-five dollars a year, same as a case of beer and we can't get nobody to pay up. It's only four hundred and seventy odd paying into it and it's the same ones every year.
We can't get any cooperation from the sealers. The Canadian Sealers Association needs to be able to stand on their own two feet so they can get the markets going. There's different stuff they can do yet.
Q: If more sealers were paying into the Sealers Association would things be different?
James Dobbin: Yes. They sealers who want to go to the ice should be paying that twenty-five dollars a year. They were talking about a court case against the Europeans [after the European Union banned seal product, Canada was going to fight the case as discriminatory]. Our sealers association was supposed to be a plaintiff, but we never even had enough money to send anyone.
Q: Why were there only two hundred and twenty five men out on the ice last year?
James Dobbin: Because the price for seals was so low. And the companies had control of the seal hunt. They selected boats to go and get seals for them.
Q: Is that fair?
James Dobbin: No, it wasn't fair. If there's ten seals out there to be gotten than everybody should get to go out until them ten seals is gone. There's people that been sealing for forty years, who last year had to set in on the wharf and watch fellars going out sealing.
Q: Some say the 225 number is a sign the industry is dying. But you're saying the number is just proof of how impracticable the industry has become?
Conway Caines: To go out you need fuel, motors, food, and flairs. To go out and only end up with only three or four or five or six seals; when those boats [company owned boats] were ahead of you for three or four days; you got stuck in the ice and they got into the seals; they got the quota, and you're left with none, two or three seals and a backload of expense... That's why a lot of boats didn't go.
Clifford Dobbin: We've lost thousands and thousands of dollars to the seal hunt. I've been at this now for thirty-eight years and now they're going to drive me out of it. I don't know.
Last year was bad year for the Gulf. Early April, the ice went out through. We chased the ice so far out the line, out towards Bell Island and we weren't allowed to go in further. We're Canadians but we weren't allowed to go past Cape Isle, that's it, we had to turn around and come home. No ice, no seals.
Q: There's been talk of a buy back. What do you think of that?
We don't want one.
Clifford Dobbin: Create a cull. A cull would make more sense. Never mind a buy back. They're eating everything, the seals are eating our stocks, and you can see it in all the fisheries. Just do the math, the population is exploding.
Conway Caines: I don't want to hear of a buy back. They going to buy my heritage from me? Try and buy back a First Nations culture, see what they tell you. They'll tell you to come somewhere else. Buy Back. It's a joke.
Q: If next week the sealing industry was over, how would you feel?
James Dobbin: It's too hurtful to event talk about. But we will continue on, we will be like good soldiers, we will march forward.
Q: One fisherman I spoke to earlier said he may have to move to Alberta, would you ever leave?
James Dobbin: The thought has crossed our minds already. If gets any worst, we will have no other choice.
What about your children?
James Dobbin: They're already up there [Alberta].
Most of the men said regardless they will go sealing this year. Even if like last year they lose money, it's about the principle.
By: The Corner Brook Western Star
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/7/2012 1:00 AM
How do you get this entire province riled up? Talk trash about the seal hunt, apparently.
What got lost in the fray of St. John's South-Mt. Pearl MP Ryan Cleary's recent statements about the seal hunt was the fact he wasn't talking about banning the controversial hunt outright. He was talking about investigating to see whether it was worthwhile having one.
Once everyone gets past the emotional impact of "losing a piece of our heritage" or "letting the liberal hippies win" they'll figure out it's a question worth asking.
Seal-hunt supporters say killing these animals for food is no different than killing cows or chickens.
But markets aren't quickly drying up all over the world for steaks and chicken fingers. Nations are closing their doors to seal products and the demand is going away.
Whether it's because of misinformation from animal-rights groups or because no one likes flipper pie as we do is a different argument, perhaps one that could be argued in court.
Basic economics dictate that if there is no market for a product, it's not worth producing that product.
The seal hunt is dangerous. Hunters risk their lives walking around on the ice over the ocean to harvest the animals.
The risk of being killed accidentally is enormous and asking if it's worth the risk is not a bad thing.
There is no question that the seal hunt is a legitimate food harvesting industry.
Some of its difficulties over the years can be laid squarely at the door of misinformation. But there is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution and taking a good, hard look at how many people in how many nations are actually the market for these products.
Then, when we weigh the facts, we can act accordingly.
--The Canadian Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2012 A11
Karen Johns for local2 sault ste. marie
February 5th, 2012
It’s time for Canada’s ice flows on the east coast to turn from white to red as it does every year when the seal hunt begins.
As usual there will be heated debate from those who promote the hunt and those who say it’s time to end the cruel slaughter of young harp seals.
The executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association (CSA), Frank Pinhorn says the end of the seal hunt would be an economic disaster for rural Newfoundland. He states that if the seal hunt is stopped, the fishing industry on the east coast will be decimated because the seals eat the cod that the fishing industry relies on.
Others have opposing views. Some scientists state the seals only rely on cod for about 3 percent of their diet.. It is humans who have depleted the cod stocks on the east coast by overfishing.
There are worries that the seal population may be declining because the ice floes may be getting fewer and smaller due to warmer weather. Young seals during the seal hunt, may actually be killed by drowning as they are forced into the water before they are old enough to swim.
The sealers (approx. 5000) make around 25 to 30 percent of their annual income from the seal hunt in one way or another.
The USA and parts of Europe have banned the import of seal fur, refusing to endorse the cruelty of the hunt.
Several years ago I contacted the then Minister of Trade David Emerson and asked if Canada could not ban the import of cat and dog fur from China.
The answer I received stated that “ Canada does not want to do anything about it, because it may harm the export of seal pelts".
I guess when you are a country that relies on its own form of cruelty for money , it would be viewed as hypocritical.
((Cats and dogs in China are skinned alive or boiled alive for their pelts and they sell that fur to other countries as trim on clothing, stuffed animals and other items. I know that nothing is going to stop that cruelty in China, but Canada could help by not allowing such items to be part of our trade. The less demand for cat and dog fur, the fewer cats and dogs will suffer.
The United States has a strict policy of not allowing cat and dog fur to enter the United States. Why can’t Canada do the same?)
A few days ago they were handing out pins and items made from seal fur made of seal skin to the members of parliament to wear as a show of support for the seal industry. (Here's a pin made from baby seals, wear it with pride!)
The seal hunt is totally unnecessary, and every year there are more countries that show there disgust by not buying seal products from Canada.
Hopefully in time there will be such a small demand for seal fur that the hunt will no longer be worth the cost of the slaughter. I look forward to that time.
Until next time, take care.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
NO one who has seen film of harp seal pups being bludgeoned to death by hunters on the ice floes off Canada’s East Coast can forget it. Greenpeace chose to film and distribute the ugly scene as a way to protest the seal hunt, and it worked. Revulsion was global. Viewers couldn’t look away and Canada became forever associated with a cruel custom.
Canada’s government continues efforts to save the hunt by finding new markets for seal products. China is next, but the list of potential customers gets shorter as more countries ban imports.
The selective ban was not enough to spare the East Coast industry or the Inuit custom. One by one, customers have disappeared. The European Union banned the import of Canadian seal products in 2010 and the Russian Federation banned harp seal pelts in December. Canada has tried for two years to open the Chinese market but so far it hasn’t happened. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heading to China this week and will try again. But the damage may be permanent. Canadians are far more interested in China’s offer to loan two pandas to the Toronto zoo, which says a lot about the divide between hunters and animal lovers in general.
As the decades move civilized society farther from its hunter-gatherer roots, more people disapprove of hunting. So, for instance, the proposal for a controlled hunt of deer which are dangerously over-populating Thunder Bay has met with sustained outrage on one hand and strong support from the hunting community on the other.
Sincere animal activists don’t eat meat or wear leather. But most anti-hunt opponents either don’t see or don’t care that essentially the same killing method used against seals is used in slaughterhouses which produce the meat that ends up on the dinner table.
In parts of Canada removed from large cities, hunting remains popular. But even here the divide is growing. Readers of this newspaper increasingly object to the sight of freshly killed deer or moose left uncovered in pickup trucks driven home on city streets.
In advance of Harper’s trip to China, government ministers participated in a brief event on Parliament Hill Thursday, posing with sealskin mitts and mukluks. Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield argued the hunt is “humane and sustainable.” Chinese society seems an unlikely market, but it is large enough to save Canadian sealing from decline. If Harper can pull this off, he’ll paint most Newfoundland and Labrador’s parliamentary seats Tory blue forever.
The commercial seal industry is in major trouble, with collapsing markets and dwindling support
There's no question in my mind that the commercial seal hunt is probably on the way out. So does anyone care?
The value of the Newfoundland and Labrador seal hunt all last year was less than $1.5 million. One million dollars directly, with another $400,000 in food, fuel, ammunition and other related spinoffs.
That might sound like a lot of money, but a busy department store in Corner Brook or a popular gas bar on the Trans-Canada Highway would do that in a month. In fact, the Costco box store in St. John's took in $1 million in just one weekend before Christmas!
So what are we going to do about this vanishing commercial seal hunt? Despite our best efforts, despite the sealers' struggle to make the industry the most humane and dignified possible, the war has been lost.
We have promoted the cultural significance, assessed and changed the way seals are killed, and we have advertised the benefits of both seals and the hunt.
We couldn't overcome the massive public opinion juggernaut unleashed by animal rights groups. They have painted the seal hunt as cruel, barbaric, inhumane, economically feeble, and unsustainable. The world listened, and it's unlikely we can ever recover from the damage of the bad press and misinformation.
Should we not talk about that? Is it wrong to even suggest that it might be time to examine the future of the seal hunt and the contribution it makes to the Newfoundland economy?
The Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus are the latest to pull the plug on importing seal products. Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly called the hunt "a bloody industry that should have been stopped years ago."
Carino, one of the two big Newfoundland buyers, had agreed to buy 100,000 pelts this year. But that's on hold now because of the situation in Russia.
The deal to sell seal meat into China has also been stalled and no one wants to say why.
The industry is in big trouble.
If it ends, another couple of hundred jobs in plants are gone, the seal oil capsule business would be jeopardized and the couple of hundred hard-core sealers who took part in last year's hunt would be out a couple of thousand dollars each.
Seals eat fish, by the tonne
The nine million seals out there now will eat 12 million tonnes of fish per year. If seals are not harvested, the population will keep increasing. Seals will eat cod, turbot, shrimp, crab, krill, sandlance and anything else they find. (Lobster is about the only thing they'll turn down.) When seals don't eat cod, they are eating what cod normally feed on. That spells even more trouble for the fishery.
In Namibia, where the fishery is the country's third largest economic indicator, fishermen are paid to cull 80,000 seals out of a herd that's only 700,000 strong. They do it to protect their fishery.
What about Ottawa? Well, they don't like drawing attention to the seal hunt. Ottawa has taken enough lumps internationally over the seal hunt and while they will give lip service to their support of the hunt, they won't do much else.
No summit on seals, not much talk of a seal cull, no great public initiative to figure out what to do. But what's needed is a full public discussion — or even a quiet private discussion
But let's not let it limp along like this. It's not fair to the tradition of sealers, it's not fair to Newfoundlanders, and it’s not fair to the environment.
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