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* WTO ruling a step in right direction

* Canada's seal hunt can't find cover in WTO trade laws

* Canada's appeal of WTO ruling an exercise in futility

* Canadian government should ban seal hunting

* Authors defend review of seal hunt

* Response to critique of animal welfare review

* Critique of review of animal welfare implications of seal hunt

* Where are the animal rights groups?

* Boycotting tourism in Canada

* Harp seals not adapting well to climate change

* Fisheries minister says seal hunt is humane

* Harp seal population growing

* No need to commercially slaughter seals

* IFAW to stop observing seal hunt; HSI to continue

* Fishermen glad IFAW to stop monitoring seal hunt

* Review of animal welfare implications of seal hunt



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Seal Hunt 2013 - Opinion Articles

Here we reprint opinion articles both for and against the seal hunt. They may have mistakes and misinformation and be deceptive, but we believe that it is beneficial to see what those who support the seal hunt claim.

We strongly encourage opponents of the seal slaughter to respond to these articles with letters to the editors of the newspapers and magazines and also with comments on the websites after becoming informed by reading factual information on Harpseals.org.



Letter: WTO seal ruling is a step in the right direction

The Gazette
November 27, 2013

Re: “Ottawa plans to appeal WTO ruling on European ban of seal products” (Business, Nov. 26)

To judge for themselves whether the seal hunt is an acceptable practice, readers need only view some of the videos readily available on the Internet. The brutality is detached and relentless. One by one, 91,000 seals were slaughtered in 2013.

In his response to accusations by animal-rights activists, Terry Audla of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami suggests these groups are basing their opposition to the seal hunt on “public morals” and wonders “where do you draw the line?” suggesting the poultry, pork and beef industries may be next.

I hope he’s right.

Shouldn’t we be considering the morals of how we treat innocent sentient beings for fur and food and skins we don’t need?

Karen Messier


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette



Canada’s seal hunt can’t find cover in WTO trade laws

Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Nov. 26 2013, 12:13 PM EST

The World Trade Organization panel decision on the European Union seal products ban, released Monday, is a landmark vindication of the right to protect animal welfare under international trade law. The panel found flaws in the way the exceptions to the EU ban are administered or defined, but confirmed that the overall ban on seal products can be justified as a reflection of European ethical and moral concerns. No wonder the Canadian government (while declaring the panel’s ruling to be a victory for Canadian seal hunters) immediately announced its intention to appeal the decision. Canada has, in fact, suffered a resounding defeat.

In 2009, the EU banned the sale of products derived from seals, with exceptions for seal products that are the result of indigenous subsistence hunting, marine management culls, and products purchased by travellers abroad. The EU legislation responded to serious public concerns about the “pain, distress, fear and other forms of suffering” that hunting and skinning cause to seals.

The EU has a long history of protecting animal welfare. It has passed extensive legislation regulating animal farming, animal experiments, and animal transportation. It has specified that the EU and its member states must pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when passing laws, “since animals are sentient beings.” These measures, as well as the EU’s ban on seal products, have been overwhelmingly supported by the European public.

In its claim to the WTO, Canada argued that the hunt is humane and that the EU was not sincere in its desire to protect animal welfare.

Typically countries bring disputes to the WTO for commercial reasons – because their products are unfairly shut out of a particular market. But Canada’s suit was not rooted in commercial considerations; it knew full well that any commercial concessions won would do little to shore up the hunt, as the market for these products has been dwindling for more than a generation. The sale of seal products has been banned by the United States since 1972, and more than 30 other countries have since following suit (including Russia, the largest market for seal pelts, which banned seal products in 2011).

Canada’s real hope was that by getting an independent international body to endorse its view that the hunt was humane, it could win hearts and minds. Or at least it could show that “humane” hunting standards and a labelling scheme were a suitable alternative to ending the hunt.

But the WTO panel rejected these arguments. Canada couldn’t demonstrate that there are real-world alternatives that could verifiably make the commercial seal hunt humane. Thus, Canada’s central claims against the anti-hunt movement have been rejected by an international adjudicative body. This is not threatened by Canada’s appeal, because these are findings of fact by the panel, which the WTO’s Appellate Body does not have power to reverse (unlike legal findings).

Crucially, the decision defends the rights of WTO members to take action against animal cruelty on moral grounds. The panel joined a broader movement in international law to recognize action against cruelty to animals as a global value, describing animal welfare as “a matter of ethical responsibility for human beings in general.” And the panel preserved “policy space” for WTO members to set and pursue their own domestic regulatory agendas, while complying with international trade law. This is critical for the ongoing legitimacy of the WTO, as two of us argued in an article in the Yale Journal of International Law.

By contrast, the panel’s findings that the ban’s exceptions are improperly administered and that some definitions are discriminatory are not always easy to follow, nor is it clear what commercial harm these aspects of the ban caused to Canada. This is where the WTO’s Appellate Body may offer some clarification.

Yet Canada’s decision to appeal the panel’s ruling continues an unfortunate trend in the government’s foreign policy. Like Canada’s 2013 campaign to ensure that polar bears were not added to the global endangered species list, the government continues to fight certain international efforts to protect animal welfare. This trend puts Canada at odds with progressive currents in international law, and leaves the country increasingly isolated.

Robert Howse is the Lloyd C. Nelson Professor of International Law at New York University School of Law. Joanna Langille is a visiting researcher at Yale Law School and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Katie Sykes is an assistant professor at the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law.



Canada’s appeal of WTO ruling on seal product ban is an exercise in futility

Steve Merti
Daily Brew
Nov. 26, 2013

Harp seal pup - Gulf of St. Lawrence - photo Andrew Vaugan - Canadian Press
A young harp seal rests on the ice floes in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Photo: Andrew Vaughan, Canadian Press

There's a well-known maxim of sociology that I learned long ago in university, which I think applies to Canada's fruitless attempts to sustain the seal hunt: Things perceived as real are real in their consequences.

In other words, people will act on what they think is happening regardless of the facts.

Canada lost a crucial case before the World Trade Organization this week aimed at quashing a four-year-old ban on seal products imposed by the European Union (EU).

In its panel report, the WTO agreed with Canada (and fellow complainer Norway) that the EU violated global trading rules by barring importation of products of the East Coast seal hunt. But it decided to uphold the ban because "it fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent ..."

Simply put, the Europeans believe the seal hunt is cruel and that perception is enough to justify the ban.

The federal government quickly announced Monday that it will appeal the adverse part of the ruling, CTV News reported.

"Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity," senior ministers said in a joint statement. "Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation and the panels’ findings should be of concern to all WTO members.”

Killed seal pup on the Front
The largest part of the annual seal hunt opened Monday amid slumping demand.

And there you have it. There's nothing wrong with the seal hunt, just the Europeans' perception of it.

But maybe it's time for Canada to hang up its hakapik, the traditional seal-killing spiked club. This seems like a costly war it can't win.

The sealing industry's proponents, backed by Ottawa, have fought a losing public-relations battle with animal campaigners for decades. Pressure forced seal hunters to adopt more humane killing methods, such as rifles, and taking helpless white-coated baby seals has long been outlawed.

But it's hard to compete with images of blood-streaked ice as dead seals are dragged to boats, or of celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson getting up close with adorable seal pups. Granted, TV chef Anthony Bourdain supports the traditional Inuit seal hunt (which isn't covered by the EU ban but nonetheless has been hurt by it), but high-profile supporters are thin on the ground.

The fact is, despite millions of taxpayer dollars spent on public relations and education campaigns abroad, seal products are increasingly unwelcome abroad.

Arguments that the East Coast harp seal population is extremely healthy and its numbers may be impeding the recovery of vulnerable fish stocks, or that seal meat and oil are healthful products are falling on deaf ears.

A Newfoundland-Labrador government fact sheet puts the economic value of its sealing industry at more than $55 million a year. It accounts for up to one third of the annual income of sealers living in the province's economically strained coastal communities.

But anti-sealing groups point to millions of dollars in government subsidies given to the industry over the years, most recently a $3.6-million loan by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to a processing company.

Meanwhile, almost three dozen countries have their doors to seal products, including the United States, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan.

Even China, seen as a crucial new market as bans spread elsewhere, now seems to be balking, Global News reports. Chinese animal-rights activists staged a protest earlier this month at an international fisheries and seafoods show.

"I think, in a way, it's an exercise in futility," Sheryl Fink, who works with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told CBC News.

"I would much prefer, as a Canadian, to see the government use our tax dollars to help find an alternative solution to help sealers out of the industry."

Maybe she's right. The moral indignation of the seal hunt seems hypocritical to many people, given how other animals that we consume are treated. The French still produce foie gras, made by force-feeding ducks and geese to bloat their livers. Let's not even start on China's reputation as a market for poached endangered species.

The Canadian Press reported in May that last spring's harvest of 91,000 seals was up from previous years but less than a quarter of the federal quota of 400,000. An industry spokesman also said pelt prices were up and domestic demand for products was growing.

Yet it's hard to escape the feeling this WTO appeal feels like a last stand in a war that's already been lost.


The Canadian Government Should Ban Seal Hunting, Not Make it Easier

By Kathy Kangas, Member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States

Posted: 10/15/2013 12:33 pm

The Canadian seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Since 2002, more than 2 million seals, most less than three months of age, have been brutally clubbed and shot to death on the ice floes of Canada.

Now it has come to light that owners of a California-based company have been charged with conspiracy to commit a number of acts related to smuggling Canadian seal oil into the United States, including allegedly illegally marketing more than 3.4 million seal oil capsules to customers in the U.S., Canada and Vietnam. These are criminal actions under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, which strictly prohibits trade in marine mammal products.

An investigation by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alleges that the husband-and-wife owners of UBF Group worked with a Chinese company for the import of seal oil caplets falsely labeled as fish oil. Customs declarations reportedly were also altered. The accused couple face penalties of up to 60 months in federal prison per violation, a potential seven-figure fine and forfeiture of all property used in or to facilitate this crime.

Humane Society International's Canada Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth said: "The U.S. market has been closed to seal products for four decades, despite the efforts of some disreputable companies to circumvent the law. We are grateful that NOAA treated this matter seriously and that the U.S. Attorney's Office has laid these charges against the accused. This case should serve as a warning to other companies that smuggling seal products into the United States, or any other region that has prohibited seal product trade, is a major offense that carries significant penalties."

I have campaigned against the Canadian seal hunt for 10 years. In 2006, I offered the Canadian government $16 million to shut down the hunt immediately. Despite the fact that my offer received international publicity, the Canadians refused to even contemplate the proposal.

I have been in touch with Canadian fishermen who no longer want to endure the dangerous conditions of the hunt and would like their government to consider a buy back of their licenses. They realize that they are part of a dying industry as the market for seal pelts has closed around the world. However, the Canadian government refuses to buy out the industry, instead choosing to heavily subsidize the seal hunt.

There are now fewer markets for seal products, as the European Union, Mexico, Taiwan, and the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have all joined the United States in banning this trade.

The owners of UBF Group should be aggressively investigated, and, if warranted, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In doing so, the U.S. will send a strong message to Canada that it's time to put an end to the inhumane seal hunt.



Author defends controversial seal-hunting report

Animal-welfare researcher tells critics his report was based on a wide-range of evidence.

By Daniel Cressey


September 4, 2013

Sealer dragging seal - photo by Richard Sobol, ZUMA-eyevine
Seals clubbed or shot by hunters in the Canadian Arctic often do not die immediately, according to a review, but its methods and conclusions have now been critiqued. Photo: Richard Sobol, ZUMA-eyevine

The author of a paper critical of Canada's annual seal hunt has defended his work after it was attacked for being biased and flawed.

Andrew Butterworth, an animal-welfare researcher and veterinarian at the University of Bristol, UK, said his study, the conclusions of which were described as “incorrect or misleading” in a critique by Canadian scientists and officials, was based on quality evidence and that his use of video footage of seal clubbing was scientifically rigorous.

"There are different viewpoints — and mine is framed with an assertion that we should take considerable care with the welfare of these animals at the time of this commercial killing," he said. "This would be the expectation in any other commercial killing activity of this scale."

Each year, starting in November, hundreds of hunters armed with rifles, clubs and hook-like tools called hakapiks kill tens of thousands of seals in Canada’s arctic waters. The review published online last September1 supported the contention by animal-rights groups that the hunt is inhumane. But other researchers later responded with a critique of that study[2], saying that its methods were flawed and its conclusions biased.

Butterworth, who has served as an observer of the hunt, was a co-author of the review, published in Marine Policy. It concluded that “generally accepted principles of humane slaughter cannot be carried out” in the seal hunt[1].

Parsing the data

That paper cited evidence including studies and videos that suggested that shooting and clubbing do not always cause immediate death. As a result, some pups have to be clubbed more than once, and others lie injured for a period of time before finally being killed. Many seals shot are probably not immediately unconscious, the authors note, as they are often then clubbed by sealers. The reviewers concluded that there are “reliable data indicating that cruelty takes place on a large scale”.

But in their critique, Pierre-Yves Daoust, a veterinarian and pathologist at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, Canada, and his colleagues say that the review's conclusions were “incorrect or misleading” and that it offered “a highly selective and unfair portrayal of the available data”[2].

Daoust and his colleagues write that clubbing after shooting does not mean the shot did not cause immediate death, but “crushing the top of the skull” ensures that the requirements of the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations are met. They also say that some references cited by Butterworth are for older practices that are no longer current. Their critique also takes aim at the video evidence, saying that it fails to meet “fundamental criteria of scientific rigor”, in part because it was collected by non-governmental organizations opposed to the hunt.

“We respect that people have alternate viewpoints on this issue, but believe that scientific articles should provide conclusions based upon a full review of the available data,” wrote Daoust’s co-authors Garry Stenson, a zoologist at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in St John’s, and Mike Hammill, at the DFO in Mont-Joli, in an e-mail to Nature. Although Butterworth has visited the hunt briefly, his co-author has not and "their experience is based primarily on video evidence collected by anti-hunt groups with the express purpose of showing poor hunting practice”, they write.

Freeze frame

Daoust says that any observations of the hunt are by necessity only snapshots and that it would be extremely difficult to design a scientifically robust study of the harvest, given the size of the area it takes place in and the harsh conditions that prevail during it. “However, I believe that my observations and those of my colleagues have allowed us to improve the quality of the hunt from an animal-welfare perspective,” he says.

In a statement, the DFO insisted that its seal harvest practices are “among the best in the world” and that the hunt is “clearly sustainable” at current levels, which saw around 90,000 harp seals taken in 2013.

The stakes in the argument have been raised in recent years, as the World Trade Organization (WTO) is considering the legality of a European Union ban on imports of seal products.

“This is a 'precedent case', as this is the first time that welfare and public-concern considerations have been influential in a WTO trade decision on animal products,” says Butterworth, whose response to the critique was also published in Marine Policy[3].


[1] Butterworth, A. & Richardson, M. Marine Policy 38, 457–469 (2013)
[2] Daoust, P.-Y., Hammill, M., Stenson, G. & Caraguel, C. Marine Policy http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2013.07.012 (2013).
[3] Butterworth, A. & Richardson, M. Marine Policy http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2013.07.010 (2013).


A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt – a response to critique of paper MP13 172

Marine Policy
Aug. 21, 2013
Corrected Proof

Andrew Butterworth, Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, North Somerset, BS405DU, UK
and Mary Richardson, 255 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada V8K2M3


Canada's commercial seal hunt warrants close examination in that it is the largest kill of marine mammals on earth, it exists for commercial reasons, it targets deep diving seals with unique physical adaptations, and it is conducted in a particularly remote and uncontrolled environment amidst unstable sea ice and extreme weather conditions. For these reasons, commercial sealing in Canada has been the subject of regular veterinary scrutiny for more than five decades. In that time, despite repeated recommendations and some changes to the regulations, considerable evidence continues to be presented during each new season of poor welfare outcomes for seals.

To add to the discussion we (Butterworth and Richardson) (2013) [1] reviewed multiple studies on commercial sealing, government reports, trade journal articles and recommendation reports, in an attempt to answer the question of why, despite the efforts of veterinary advisors and government to improve the situation, seals continue to die in inhumane ways. In examining the available evidence, the environment in which commercial sealing occurs, and the physical adaptations of seals, the authors concluded that generally accepted principles of humane slaughter cannot be implemented effectively and consistently in the context of commercial sealing.

For full text, visit Elsevier.


A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt: A critique

By Pierre-Yves Daoust, Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, Department of Pathology & Microbiology, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PE, Canada C1A 4P3
and Mike Hammill, Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, P.O. Box 1000, Mont-Joli, QC, Canada G5H 3Z4
and Garry Stenson, Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, P.O. Box 5667, St. John's, NL, Canada A1C 5X1
and Charles Caraguel, School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy Campus, The University of Adelaide, SA 5371, Australia

Marine Policy
Aug. 16, 2013
Corrected Proof


In a recent article in this journal (Butterworth and Richardson. A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt. Marine Policy 2013;38:457–469), the authors argued that “generally accepted principles of humane slaughter cannot be carried out effectively or consistently during the Canadian commercial seal hunt”. The present review purports to show that these authors' conclusions were incorrect because they were highly selective in their treatment of the information available and made no attempt to consider other perspectives. In addition, their reliance on anecdotal video sequences to support some of their points was seriously flawed since a vast proportion of these sequences failed to meet fundamental criteria of scientific rigor. The article by Butterworth and Richardson failed to provide an unbiased presentation of the available data and therefore did not bring further clarity to the debate on the Canadian commercial seal hunt.

For full text, visit Elsevier.



Rezori | Where are the animal rights groups?
A seal hunt without activists is like a Christmas parade without elves

By Azzo Rezori, CBC News
Posted: Jun 7, 2013 6:09 AM NT

Everything's been right on time again.

Sealer clubs harp seal pup - photo IFAW and Canadian Press 2011
The International Fund for Animal Welfare often supplied photos like this one, taken off Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, to wire services for newspapers and magazines. (IFAW/Canadian Press)

We had a great May, including the traditionally lousy long weekend. The dandelions came and went (I love them as long as they stay off my property). The fog days of June came upon us as scheduled.

By the time the caplin start rolling, Middle Cove might even be back to where it was before the last storm turned it into an uncharacteristically sandy beach.

But something's been missing. I've had that feeling ever since the boys went out sealing last month and we hardly heard about it except on the Fisheries Broadcast. And then it came to me the other day. We never saw one of the key animal rights groups this year!

All right. When the new pope can embrace atheists as long as they do good works (as Catholics should), everything's possible, even animal rights groups accepting that seals can be killed for the right reasons.

Of course that's not what's really going on. Back in late April, a few weeks before the seal hunt was due to start, the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) issued a statement saying it wasn't going to bother holding demonstrations on the ice this year.

What? A seal hunt without animal rights activists? That's a Christmas parade without elves. A Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce.

Granted, the Humane Society for the United States made its presence known this year. IFAW, though, stayed away.
A shift in efforts

When an enemy has you up against the rope and then suddenly disappears, you know he's up to no good. In this case, the IFAW announced that it saw more gain in shifting its efforts from the real world of the slaughter to the murky world of lobbying.

I suppose spring is a lot milder in Brussels than along the Gulf of St. Lawrence or in St. Anthony.

You also don't have to wait until mid-May for the dandelions. The restaurants are probably better, the hotels more chic, and if you're Canadian and a product of French immersion you can show off your franglais as you order your Belgian waffles.

There's also the IFAW's confident message that it's won the public opinion war. Now it's just a matter of pressing the advantage home in the right places.

Here's where we can heave a little sigh of hope. The ancient Greeks called that kind of behaviour hubris — when you forget where you came from and what you cut your teeth on. The IFAW has finally come out of the closet of its intentions.

Its long-running campaign to stop the seal hunt is no longer about seals, it's now about something much more seductive and far more slippery: power.
The time bomb of power

It may not seem that way, but that's good news. Power is a time bomb in anybody's pocket, I don't care whose. It will go off sooner or later, guaranteed.

There's been nothing particularly honest about the way organizations like the IFAW have manipulated the information they gathered on the hunt each year. But as long as they came out themselves, made a public spectacle of it, rubbed every uninformed sensitivity raw with their gruesome claims, they remained grounded in something real.

Now they're into a very different world where nothing's ever quite what it seems, where decisions float like wisps of smoke that intoxicate more than they settle things, where the only glimpse they'll ever get of a kill is on a plate garnished with steak tartare. And trust me, there they'll lose their way.

Let's hope it takes them a long time to figure that out themselves. The longer it'll take them, the less the world will see of them.

And by the time they come crawling back to reconnect with their roots on the ice, the world will have moved on and forgotten and no longer give a damn.



Letters: The seal hunt and its direct impact on tourism

The Telegram
Published on April 18, 2013

My parents will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year and we decided to surprise them, having booked a family cruise on Holland America.

Our cruise was to depart this September and included both Quebec and Halifax on the itinerary.

We are a total of 10 adults and eight children.

Changing plans

We have changed our plans, and while we will still take our cruise, we cannot, in good faith, include any ports in Canada.

We cannot spend our tourism dollars in Canada whilst your government continues to allow the slaughter of thousands of baby seals along the East Coast.

We are also avid skiers and, for the past five years, enjoyed taking our entire family on a winter holiday to Mont Tremblant. As much as we have enjoyed our time there, we have decided not to return next season.

Other action

My three children, all of whom attend large universities here in the U.S., have taken to Facebook to urge their friends to commence a letter-writing campaign to Kim Lopdrup, the president of Red Lobster.

We are urging Mr. Lopdrup to stop purchasing any Canadian seafood until Canada takes action to prevent this unspeakable, inhumane and horrific practice.

Lynn Myerson

New York



Letters: Theory of harp seals 'adapting well' to climate change not supported by proof

Windsor Star
April 16, 2013

Re: Seal population growing at dramatic rate, by Gil Theriault, April 13.

Differences of opinion on Canada’s commercial seal hunt are expected but blatant disregard for the facts cannot go unchallenged.

The estimated harp seal population is currently about three million less than the 10 million claimed in a recent letter by Mr. Gil Theriault, and their population is not, in fact, growing, but is currently experiencing a slight decline.

Further, the idea that harp seals are “adapting well” to changing climate and deteriorating ice conditions is not supported by a shred of scientific evidence. The winters of 2010 and 2011 were the worst on record for ice cover in the Northwest Atlantic and government seal scientists expect very few animals to have survived from these years.

Harp seal reproductive rates are among the lowest on record with the number of newborn pups born dropping from an estimated 1.5 million in 2008 to a projected 700,000 in 2013. Climate change is undeniably having an impact on seals and numerous other species that require ice to breed and survive.

As for the idea that we need to cull seals to protect fish stocks, there is no evidence that reducing the number of harp seals would be expected to result in greater numbers of cod. A recent scientific report from Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports that the greatest predator of cod is … other cod!

Whales, seabirds and a multitude of marine creates also eat cod. Should we remove them — and every other ocean predator — as well? Most sensible Canadians would find this idea preposterous, as it well is.

SHERYL FINK, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Guelph, Ont.



Letter: Seal hunt is humane, sustainable, well-regulated

Cape Breton Post
April 15, 2013

I am proud to be a part of a government that is standing shoulder to shoulder with Canadian sealers. Unlike the Liberals, who, through the activities of Ontario Sen. Mac Harb, have consistently tried to destroy the livelihoods of Canadian sealers, our Conservative government will continue to fight for Canadian sealers and their families.

For years, our government has been working with members of the sealing industry to help them battle a war being waged by anti-sealing lobbyists who do not understand the way of life in remote coastal communities where sealing is a means of survival.

While anti-sealing lobbyists in urban centres such as Toronto and New York stage protests using false information and outdated pictures, our government continues to promote the truth about the Canadian seal hunt.

For example, the current hunt does not include baby seals. Harp seal pups (whitecoats) and hooded seal pups (bluebacks) have been protected since 1987. The seals harvested are self-reliant, independent animals.

Moreover, the seal hunt is very sustainable. The Atlantic harp seal population is healthy and abundant. It is currently estimated at approximately 7.3 million animals — more than three times what it was in the 1970s.

Unlike members of the Liberal party, our Conservative government remains unequivocal in its support for the Canadian sealing industry. Canadian sealers, processors, artisans, and Inuit produce some of the finest quality seal products in the world.

We remain committed to supporting jobs and growth, which includes the economic benefits to northern and coastal regions of the country provided by the sealing industry.

In short, Canada’s seal hunt is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity that provides an important source of food and income for thousands of sealers and their families.

Our government will always put the lives and livelihoods of real Canadian families first, and we will not sacrifice this industry in response to hyperbole and misinformation put forward by animal rights activists.

Keith Ashfield, minister

Fisheries and Oceans



Letters: Seal population growing at dramatic rate

Windsor Star
Apr 11, 2013 - 3:38 PM EDT

Re: End the seal slaughter now, by Chrissy Vanderheide-Stolarski, April 5.

Ms. Chrissy Vanderheide-Stolarski is simply wrong to claim that seal populations are threatened by hunting and global warming.

In fact, seal populations on the east coast of Canada have been growing at a dramatic rate for the past 20 years. Harp seal populations have multiplied from 1.5 million in the 1970s to about 10 million today.

Meanwhile, the grey seal population has grown from 5,000 to 400,000 — an 8,000 per cent increase. Recent scientific reports raise serious concern, not for seals but for fish stocks.

Seals now consume 14 times what the whole Canadian fishing fleet is landing on all three coasts.

Global warming clearly hasn’t stopped seal expansion. And why would it? Seal species are thriving around the world including territories where there has never been ice.

Apparently, our harp and grey seal populations are also adapting well to changing conditions.

Meanwhile, in Europe, just two years after banning the import of seal products, concern is growing about the need to cull seal populations to protect European fish stocks, even if seal products can no longer be used. In Canada, we believe that it is more respectful to use the animals we cull.

For all these reasons, the Government of Canada has every right to challenge European hypocrisy and the arbitrary seal import ban at the WTO.

Speaking of hypocrisy, it takes nerve for animal activists to express concern about the cost of Canada’s WTO challenge when these same groups have collected millions of dollars over so many years with their misleading and manipulative campaigning.

This is money they have taken from the pockets of hard-working Arctic Inuit hunters and Atlantic fishing families.

GIL THERIAULT, Co-ordinator, Seals and Sealing Network, Quebec



Letters: No need to commercially slaughter seals

The Windsor Star
April 2, 2013

It’s that time of year again for Canadian taxpayers to help foot the bill for the commercial seal hunt. Over $20 million in government subsidies have been provided to the Canadian sealing industry during the period from 1995 to 2001.

harp seal pup - Windsor Star
File photo of a Harp seal pup. (Windsor Star files)

Over the past 10 years, nearly half of the seal pup population has been savagely slaughtered by commercial sealers. The seal population is already threatened by global warming.

As the ice cover rapidly disappears, they are facing devastating rates of natural mortalities.

The Government of Canada is wasting $10 million more to appeal to the WTO, challenging the decisions of foreign governments who have shut their doors to Canadian seal products. With fewer than 500 fishermen, out of the usual 6,000 taking part in the 2011 hunt, the time to end the slaughter is now.

Despite decades of effort, all of the tax dollars spent, all of the aggressive lobbying efforts, all of the meetings with representatives of foreign governments, and all of the photo ops in sealskin vests, the sealing industry is dead.

Nearly all major international markets are shut to Canadian seal products and this includes the 27-country European Union.

A deal to sell seal meat to China is in diplomatic and bureaucratic limbo and international opposition to the hunt has virtually eliminated fur demand.

We aren’t living in the dark ages. We don’t need to commercially slaughter seals. It’s time the government stops funding a cruel, obsolete and useless industry.

The Inuit people of Canada are not involved in the commercial seal hunt.




Canada’s seal hunt: One opponent leaves the ice as another vows to settle in

By Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
March 27, 2013

An international animal rights group that physically observes Canada’s annual seal hunt says it will no longer take to the ice to protest the cull and will instead focus on lobbying for changes from the government. But another group says it is more important than ever to keep watch over the annual slaughter.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) told CBC News they would skip the seal hunt for the first time in nearly 20 years, because observing the hunt may actually be keeping it alive.

“A lot of times just by being out there and being on the ice we sort of keep this thing alive,” said Sheryl Fink, head of IFAW’s seal hunt campaign. “I think if we take a step back, our hope at least is that this thing will continue towards its inevitable demise.”

Those who oppose the seal hunt still have a lot of work to do where public policy is concerned. The federal government is still contesting international bans on seal products. And Newfoundland just issued another $3.6 million in loans to a seal processing plant ahead of this year's hunt.

Grey seal on PEI
Reaction came quickly on P.E.I. to the grey seal cull recommendation

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada, told Yahoo! Canada News in an interview that while only 800 sealers took part in the hunt last year, it was more important than ever to observe the cull.

Yahoo! Canada: What are your thoughts about IFAW’s decision to forgo the seal hunt, and what will you be doing to oppose it this year?

Rebecca Aldworth: First of all, Humane Society International documents the commercial seal hunt every year that it goes on and we will absolutely be there this year to film and bear witness to the slaughter of the baby seals. It is essential that we go out every year this hunt continues. The Canadian government changes very, very slightly the conditions of permits or regulations just about every year. If we don’t film what happens, the first thing that sealing advocates say is “things have changed now.”

We are also aware that the seal hunt takes place in a public space but out of public view. Our cameras are the eyes of the world, we are the only way the international community, and Canadians as well, can see what is happening on the ice floes to these seals. We take that responsibility very seriously. We will be there as long as the hunt continues.

Yahoo! Canada: Does part of your opposition involve appealing to the government? Is it possible to do both observation and government lobbying?

Aldworth: Absolutely, we are promoting on the national level a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry. We think that is a great way to move beyond the national seal hunt in a way that will not economically penalize the people involved. Fishery buyouts are fairly common on the east coast of Canada. In fact, since 1992 the federal government has spent more than $4 billion doing various fishery diversification projects. We think the same thing can be done with the sealing hunt. We’ve done some polling in the community and found that half of the sealers in Newfoundland … are in support of the idea. We think if the sealers themselves are willing to move beyond sealing, it is time the federal government listened.

Yahoo! Canada: IFAW said they would stop observing the seal hunt because it may be helping to keep the hunt alive.

Aldworth: To give you the context of how I interpreted that comment, I think what they said was that IFAW feels that continuing to film the hunt and broadcast those images is telling the public that it is still going on, when in their view it is coming to an end.

Yahoo! Canada: And what is your take on that?

Aldworth: The Newfoundland government just poured $3.6 million into the commercial sealing industry. This hunt is still going on. It is going on at a greatly reduced rate – we also think it is coming to an end. But it is coming to an end because of the pressure we are exerting every year. From our perspective, it is very important to stay out there, continue documenting what is going on, to continue providing that evidence to governments around the world. Not just to make sure more countries stop their trade in seal products but to protect the bans that are already in place. We are just one organization, and every organization has the right to approach this in the way they deem most effective.

Interview has been condensed for space and clarity.


Fishermen glad anti-seal hunt group staying off ice
Presence created negative publicity for P.E.I., says fishermen's association

CBC News
Posted: Mar 27, 2013 2:48 PM AT

sealer shoots grey seal pups - photo by Paul Darrows - Reuters
A seal hunter prepares to shoot a grey seal. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

A group representing P.E.I. fishermen couldn't be happier that the International Fund for Animal Welfare won't be sending observers to the spring seal hunt.

The observers have been coming for 18 years, using P.E.I. as a base during the hunt.

Mike McGeoghegan, president of the PEI Fishermen's Association, said all the group did was create negative publicity for the Island, a province with only about four seal hunters.

"Their war chest must be full up. They just start trouble, bringing up an issue that has always been contentious. There is virtually zero seal hunting on P.E.I. [It's] negative publicity against Prince Edward Island and we don't need that," said McGeoghegan.

And the group is misinformed — there are actually too many seals and something has to be done to correct the problem, he said.

Meanwhile, Sheryl Fink, director of the seal campaign for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said it was time to reallocate resources to where the group thinks it can make a difference.

"Basically we decided to take a step back and focus our cameras — instead of focusing on what is happening on the ice —let's put the focus on the politicians and politics here in Ottawa," said Fink.

"Because, really, I think we are at a point now that what's really keeping the seal hunt alive is not economics. It's not jobs. It's politicians that are keeping the seal hunt alive and that is where we need to work to try to bring it to an end."

A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt

By Andrew Butterworth, Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, N Somerset BS405DU, UK
and Mary Richardson, 255 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada V8K2M3

Marine Policy
Vol. 38, pp. 457-469
March, 2013


The Canadian seal hunt is the world's largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals and, as such, has been the subject of veterinary scrutiny for half a century. In that time, veterinary experts have made multiple recommendations to improve welfare at the seal hunt, some of which have been included in Canadian sealing regulations. Yet analysis of video material and studies on the outcomes of the hunt suggest that the potential for suffering during the hunt continues, and may, in fact, be increasing. In the past decade, numerous countries have taken action to prohibit their trade in products of commercial seal hunts in response to public concerns about the welfare of the seals. With these actions now being examined at the World Trade Organization, it is important to determine if these concerns are warranted. This paper reviews relevant veterinary science, exploring the intrinsic elements of commercial sealing and unique physical adaptations of seals that prevent effective and consistent application of humane slaughter methods at the seal hunt. The review of available data indicates that generally accepted principles of humane slaughter cannot be carried out effectively or consistently in the commercial seal hunt.

For the full text, visit Elsevier



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