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Seal Hunt 2014 - 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.

We will also include some of our comments, which we often post on these websites.



The Commercial Seal Hunt Must Be Stopped

Rebecca Aldworth
November 11, 2014

I grew up in a small sealing town in Newfoundland, and for most of my adult life I've campaigned to end Canada's commercial seal slaughter. In all that time, I have never once opposed Inuit subsistence sealing, which happens at a much smaller scale, for different reasons, in another part of the country. Nor have I witnessed any other activist or group doing so.

And yet, if a handful of sealing advocates and federal politicians had their way, the world would believe that the animal protection movement has done little else than attack traditional Inuit sealing.

Last year, Ellen Degeneres posted a selfie from the Academy Awards. Part of the proceeds from the retweeting of that famous photo went to the Humane Society of the United States, specifically earmarked for their dog rescue work. That event had nothing, whatsoever, to do with seals. Yet a satirical "sealfie" campaign was born, with images of Inuit people eating seal meat and wearing seal fur disseminated to protest seal slaughter opposition from Degeneres and the HSUS. The fact that both oppose commercial sealing in Atlantic Canada and not the Inuit subsistence seal hunt didn't get in the way of the publicity stunt, nor the biased reporting that followed.

As the sealfie campaign began to pick up steam, mainstream news outlets told a story of urban-centric animal protection groups purportedly campaigning to stop aboriginal people from eating and wearing the products of their traditional hunt. Animal protection groups argued that they did not oppose Inuit sealing, and had actually worked to ensure exemptions for products of traditional Inuit hunts, but these arguments were inconvenient because they did not support the prevailing (and false) stories in the media.

I wish I was naive enough to think this was all just one big misunderstanding. But it's not. What has happened, and continues to happen, is a tactic commonly used in polemic debates, when one side is unable to defeat the actual position of their opponents. It's called a straw man argument, and it involves misrepresenting your adversary's perspectives so that you can successfully refute those distorted claims instead.

Commercial sealing advocates find it exceptionally difficult to win hearts and minds with the truth. Because the truth is an industrial scale, non-aboriginal slaughter in which defenseless seal pups less than three months of age are horribly beaten and shot to death for their fur. It is a wasteful kill, in which the carcasses are normally dumped at sea.

But if the commercial sealing industry could somehow blur the lines between the globally condemned commercial slaughter and Inuit subsistence sealing in northern Canada, perhaps the public would listen.

That is exactly what the sealfie campaign and its proponents have tried to do, with an aboriginal singer willing to go so far as to pose her newborn baby next to a dead seal to generate publicity. Months later, the same singer is using her ongoing tour to promote her dislike of animal protection groups (or is it the other way around).

But those who are using this tactic face one serious challenge. A straw man argument relies almost entirely on an audience ignorant of the facts. So as long as even a few journalists out there care enough about truth in reporting, the sealfie campaign will ultimately be exposed for what it is: a cynical ploy to appropriate aboriginal traditional lifestyles to sell a globally condemned commercial slaughter of baby seals. Maybe then we can finally get back to the issue at hand: why our government must shut down Atlantic Canada's commercial slaughter of baby seals forever.



The moral problem with commercial seal hunting

By Dr. Andrew Butterworth, Senior Lecturer in Animal Sciences and Senior Research Fellow, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol,Langford, UK
April 30, 2014

The Canadian seal hunt leads to animal suffering, and a European Union ban on the import of its products should stand, says Andy Butterworth.

As I write this piece in mid-April, small boats are weaving their way through the shifting Arctic sea ice off the east coast of Canada to hunt seals. In previous years, more than 1,000 boats have taken part. By the end of the 2014 hunt, a quota of some 400,000 young seals could have been taken, leaving the ice stained red with blood. The pace is rapid. Most of the annual take occurs in the first five days.

The annual Canadian commercial seal hunt is the world's largest hunt of marine mammals. A few weeks old, the seal pups are prized primarily for their skins and also for the omega-3-rich oil used in food supplements — products that are shipped around the world.

Read the full article here.


Morrissey blasts Canadian seal hunt

Monday, 21 April 2014

Rocker Morrissey has taken aim at a top government official in Canada over the country's support for seal hunting.

Morrissey - u.tv

The Suedehead hitmaker, a staunch animal rights activist, published an open letter on fan site True-to-you.net in a post titled This sorrowful Canada in which he condemned the practice and reserved the most criticism for Fisheries Minister Gail Shea for failing to put a stop to the nation's annual seal slaughter.

He wrote: "The annual East Coast seal hunt/kill started Monday - against a strong wave of trade and court challenges.

"Gail Shea, the federal Fisheries Minister for Canada, says that baby seals are 'killed humanely', and explains how the baby seals are shot by high-powered rifles. Is this a death that Gail Shea would wish for herself? Would it make her happy to be shot by a high-powered rifle?

"If she considers such butchery to be so 'humane', why doesn't she place herself amongst the tens of thousands of grey-coated harp seals that will be slaughtered within the next few weeks? She could then test the humane aspect of having her head blown off for herself. Only then could she be thought to speak with any authority on the subject."

But Morrissey insists not all Canadians are bad, adding: "Canada is a beautiful country, and the people of Canada are good people. But good people are often ineffectual. Internationally, Canada's sorry image is due entirely to its seal slaughter - which is greedy and barbaric, and it is dismaying to witness such ignorance in 2014."

He continues: "Sound reason tells us that only those of the thinnest intellect wear animal fur, and because the Canadian government are concerned with animals only economically, killing baby seals with lightning brutality is now Canada's primary global image. Until this annual massacre is abolished, Canada itself is regrettably fashionably dead."



Magdalen Islands: Seal hunting season a disaster

By Johanne Fournier
April 20, 2014
Special Collaboration
Le Soleil
This article has been translated from French with the help of Google Translate

(Magdalen Islands) The excessive ice cover has caused catastrophic damage to the seal hunt season that just ended in the Magdalen Islands (Îles-de-la-Madeleine). One boat, Jean-Mathieu, with a dozen hunters on board, succeeded in taking only 150 animals in four days, while the crew hoped would bring back at least 1,000 to recoup costs from its time at sea.

Sealer drags harp seal pup - photo -AFP
The recently-ended Magdalen Islands seal hunting season was pitiful for sealers, and the implications extended to the butchers. Photo: AFP

At $10 to $20 for the carcass and skin, Captain Denis Éloquin laments the lack of profitability, after returning with his ship to Port-au-Port, on the west coast of Newfoundland.

But the most desperate person due to the poor harvest is the owner of the Côte à Côte Butcher who cannot meet the demand for seal meat. Magdalen Islands Butcher Réjean Vigneau says he needs 200 times more seal meat to satisfy the demand of his customers. "He will leave Thursday for Newfoundland to find his meat there," said the director of the Association of Sealers of the Magdalen Islands, Gil Thériault. "Despite the fact that we have not promoted much seal meat, it has a lot more orders than it can deliver!"


According to Mr. Thériault, Canada should reinstate the hunting of whitecoat seal pups, which has been prohibited for 27 years. "It was a mistake," he says. "When you want to control gulls in Montreal, eggs are crushed. So we should do something to the reduce the number of seals." According to him, there are about 750,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and around 7.8 million harp seals that go down to the west of the islands during the pupping period. "It's been too long since the Canadian government prioritized a handful of extremists and sacrificed, by the way, the ecosystem and the human being," protesting the president of the Sealers Association, Denis Longuépeé.

"As a butcher, it allows me to kill calves, lambs, and piglets, but not seal pups," compares Rejean Vigneau, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in 10 years in the production of fine products based on seal meat. "I'd like someone to explain the difference to me! The provincial government encourages us to move forward, but federal regulations put a stick in the wheels."



East Coast seal hunt starts amid ongoing court case, trade challenge

Sunday, Apr. 13 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Canadian Press

Harp seal pup - photo Andrew Vaughan - Canadian Press

A young harp seal rests on the ice floes during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine on Wednesday, March 25, 2009.


HALIFAX -- The annual East Coast seal hunt starts Monday against a backdrop of ongoing trade and court challenges in Europe and renewed claims from animal welfare groups that the 400-year-old industry is dead in the water.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Canadian wing of Humane Society International, said on Sunday that only 15 boats have signalled their intention to take part in the hunt, which typically focuses on harp seals off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

With the market for seal products closed in the United States, most of Europe and Russia, the commercial hunt is a shadow of what it once was, largely surviving on subsidies from the Newfoundland and Labrador government in the past few years, Aldworth said.

“From a market perspective, the seal hunt is very much over,” she said in an interview, adding her group will return to the ice floes to document the slaughter. “Markets around the world have closed ... It’s an industry that’s limping along on credit and subsidies.”

However, the federal government has been steadfast in its support of the hunt, insisting it’s a humane, sustainable and an economically viable pursuit that is important to many coastal communities.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea admitted Sunday that those opposed to the hunt have been effective in shutting down international markets.

“They have been spreading misinformation about the Canadian seal hunt and Canadian seal products for as long as I’ve been in this position,” Shea said in an interview from Vancouver. “It’s grossly unfair. We’ve done a lot of work in ensuring that our Canadian seal hunt is humane.”

Every seal hunter must be trained on proper killing techniques before they are allowed to take part in the hunt, she said.

“I believe there’s great opportunity in the sealing industry,” Shea said, adding that Ottawa continues to invest in product development.

Meanwhile, the industry continues to push ahead with a court case in the European Union aimed at overturning a ban on seal products, and the federal government is appealing a recent World Trade Organization decision to uphold the ban.

The WTO concluded in November that while the ban undermines fair trade, the restrictions can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

Last month, Canada’s northern development minister said the WTO’s decision had set a dangerous precedent for future trade relations.

Leona Aglukkaq said the trade organization was wrong to cite moral grounds in its ruling. She said the ruling should be struck down because it unfairly discriminates against Canadian seal hunters while allowing the EU to ban products from any type of business that involves the killing of animals.

Shea said even though the EU has provided an exemption for Inuit seal hunters, the broader ban is effectively killing their markets anyway.

“Trade should be governed by facts and evidence and not based on issues or morality fuelled by misinformation,” She said.

Human Society International and other animal welfare groups are suggesting Ottawa should shut down the industry and cushion the economic impact by offering buyouts to about 6,000 licensed hunters.

She rejected that idea.

“I don’t believe this industry is for sale,” she said, adding it will be up to industry players to decide the fate of the hunt.

Sheryl Fink, wildlife campaigns director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, issued a statement saying the hunt has been on life support for 20 years.

“It will never come back to previous levels,” said Fink. “Europeans don’t want products from an inhumane, wasteful and unnecessary industry.”



WTO Seals:Canada kept export program for indigenous products under wraps til after AB hearing

by Rob Howse
April 10, 2014
International Economic Law and Policy Blog

One of Canada's key contentions in the WTO Seals dispute is that the indigenous exception in the EU ban is lacking in evenhandedness, favoring Greenland seal products over Canadian products. The exception is de jure neutral and available to indigenous products regardless of origin. But Canada has maintained that it is de facto discriminatory because Canadian indigenous seal products are not really suited to take advantage of export markets.

That's not a good argument about discrimination because Canada has done nothing to connect the problem it alleges to the design or structure of the EU's exception; it is also undermined by evidence presented by Canada itself from Nunavut that the reason that indiigenous seal products are not selling in export markets is just plain lack of market demand.

Well, it also turns out that Canada, whle telling the WTO that Canadian indigenous sealing products aren't somehow suited for export markets, had been funding a program to promote just such exports.

Normally when Canada does something for sealers they waste no time in shouting about it, to get the political credit in that community. But this time the measures were kept under wraps for several months. They were announced the Monday immediately after the week of the AB hearings in the case. That date doesn't seem like a coincidence!


Sustainable seal meat

Brodie Thomas
February 10, 2014

We've made it though January, and it's now the time of year when talk turns to the seal hunt.

Specifically, the talk will be about how almost nobody is going sealing this year,

A handful of boats on the northeast coast and the Northern Peninsula will go out in the next few months. If last year is any indication, most pelts will be bought up by a company which for the past two years has received multi-million dollar loans from the province.

Little if any mention will be made of the seal meat.

Meanwhile on Parliament Hill, our elected members were recently dining on seal meat, at least for an afternoon. Labrador MHA Yvonne Jones tweeted a message on Jan. 30.

"Enjoying Seal Meat at the Seal Day on the Hill Promotions. Fighting back against those who try to destroy our culture."

She included with the tweet a picture of what looked like seal pepperoni. She didn't specify what it was.

Aside from a few self-serving tweets from politicians, the seal day event garnered no mention in the print media.

It's great that our elected members are scoring political points with what's left of the seal harvest. But if a politician wants this writer's vote, they could see that some seal meat finds its way to a grocery store freezer in the next 12 months.

Politicians like to talk about how important the seal hunt is to our culture, and they like to wear sealskin around to the occasional public event, but nobody is doing anything to actually bring seal products to local markets.

We're giving the animal rights activists fuel when we can't get behind an industry we vehemently pay lip service to every year.

If we can find a few million dollars to aid the seal pelt industry, we could probably come up with a similar amount to create a "value-added" seal meat industry.

There must be one or two fish plants around that could prepare seal sausages, seal burgers, and pre-made frozen flipper pies. There might also be a few Newfoundland distributors who could get those goods to provincial grocery stores.

If companies can take the sludge from a slaughterhouse floor and produce something as tasty as Vienna sausages and ballpark franks, then surely someone can make seal meat palatable.

There is a movement amongst the hip and trendy to become a "locavore." The word was coined in 2005 and it means someone who sources their food locally.

The idea behind the locavore movement is to produce more of your own food, support local farmers, and to reduce the "carbon footprint" of the food one is eating.

It has given rise to ideas such as the 100-mile diet - where people limit themselves to food produced or grown within a 100-mile radius of their home.

You can bet that more than a few people who protest the seal hunt try to live as locavores. Let's show them that we too can be "locavores" by tapping into our own local sources of sustainable, organic protein.



Seal hunt OK to majority of Canadians, poll finds

12:46 pm, January 30th, 2014


The majority of Canadians are in favour of the annual seal hunt and say banning commercial goods, including seal products, based on moral grounds is unacceptable, a new poll has found.

In the poll commissioned by the Seals and Sealing Network, 70% of 1,996 adult Canadians surveyed said they support the annual hunt in some form - 5% said all forms of seal hunting are acceptable, 43% said hunters should be allowed to kill seals, but only those not endangered and the hunters need to ensure the animals do not suffer; while 22% said only Inuit or other aboriginal groups should be allowed to hunt seals.

Nearly a quarter, 22%, said seal hunting is unacceptable.

When asked about the World Trade Organizations decision to uphold the European Union's ban on Canadian seal products, 69% of respondents opposed banning any commercial product based on moral grounds unless there was scientific evidence showing the product did harm.

As well, 52% agreed the federal government should consider trade sanctions on European products until the ban on seal products is lifted.

The survey was conducted Jan. 14-18 and has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

Canadian seal products - pelts, meat and oil - are banned in many other parts of the world, including Russian and the European Union.

That has led to a sharp decline in the number of seals taken in recent annual hunts -- often thousands below the allowable limit.

[The raw data from this survey shows that only 5% of Canadians agree that "all forms of seal hunting are acceptable." The breakdown by region shows that in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and Manitoba, only 3% agree with this statement; in Quebec, only 4% agree; in Ontario, only 5% agree; in Alberta, 7% agree with this statement; and in the Atlantic provinces (which includes Newfoundland and Labrador, from which most sealers hail), 12% agree with this statement.

The statement that 43% of Canadians agree with, according to the survey, is "All seal hunters should be allowed to hunt seals, but only if seal populations are not endangered and the animals do not suffer." Since the video and eyewitness evidence shows that seals do suffer, and since harp seals, like all ice seals, are threatened by climate change, this survey shows that this group of Canadians is oppposed to Canada's seal massacre.

Add this 43% to the 22% who say that "only Inuit or other aboriginal groups should be allowed to hunt seals" and the 22% who say that "no form of seal hunting is acceptable," and this survey shows 87% opposition to Canada's commercial seal hunt.

The second part of the survey, on the WTO decision to uphold the EU ban on seal product imports, also asks leading questions. For example, it asks whether respondents agree that "A country or group of countries should not be able to ban a legitimate commercial product from being imported into its country based on moral grounds unless the evidence used is fact-based and agreed upon by a credible independent third-party organization."

The EU ban resulted from fact-based evidence obtained by independent third-party organizations, such as IFAW, HSI, and journalists who witnessed and video-taped the killing.]



Response to Letter: Seal hunt serves an important purpose, by Bruce E. Hornidge, Port Alberni, B.C., The Gazette January 3, 2014

(See letter below)

By Diana Marmorstein, Ph.D.
CEO, Harpseals.org

Mr. Hornidge of British Columbia claims that the EU ban on seal product imports and the refusal of the WTO to deny the right of EU citizens to ban such products from its soils is tantamount to "bullying". He minimizes the moral issue of brutally killing wildlife for profit.

The killing of seal pups (who are just 3 weeks to 3 months of age when they are killed) is not often swift or 'without untoward pain'. Mr. Hornidge need not "recall the graphic films of the 1970-'80s;" he need only watch the footage taken last year, in 2012, in 2011, in 2010, etc. by the Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. They have shown seal pups being gaffed and dragged up onto ships alive and conscious, shot and then clubbed several times, left for several minutes, bleeding from their injuries, etc.

Mr. Hornidge, face reality. The reason the EU banned seal product imports is because they sat for days witnessing footage of these slaughters and even sent officials to observe them in person. The people of the EU and their leaders have based the decision to ban seal products on a wealth of current information, not on oudated or unrealistic data.

Mr. Hornidge also asserts that wildlife populations need to be managed by humans as a food source for us. I disagree. Perhaps the Inuit need to consume fish, but Mr. Hornidge and others in B.C., have an infinite number of choices when it comes to deciding what to eat for dinner. In fact, in less than an hour's drive, Mr. Hornidge could enjoy food at vegan restaurants and avoid killing fish or providing fishermen with more excuses to kill seals.

The reality is that humans have a long history of mismanaging wildlife populations - driving them to extinction, creating imbalances, destroying habitat so that wildlife have insufficient range to survive, etc. Our impact on the oceans is horrendous. Over-fishing, destructive fishing practices that remove way too many animals and kill so many more animals than they take, which the industry calls 'by-catch', along with pollution of many kinds and climate change is destroying life in the oceans and threatening fish and marine mammals with extinction.

Harp seals are seriously threatened by climate change. Tens of thousands of harp seal pups die terribly of drowning before they are able to swim thanks to the lack of sea ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence - which continues to get worse. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. recognized that ice seals (of which harp seals are an example) are threatened by climate change and listed two species in U.S. waters as threatened, which confers extra protections for them. Canada, on the other hand, continues its reckless slaughter, even allowing sealers to kill the few remaining seals in the southern Gulf after most pups die.
The EU has acted on behalf of its population, which, based on the brutality and recklessness of Canada's seal 'hunt', has expressed its wish to keep products of this slaughter out of its borders.




Letter: Seal hunt serves an important purpose

The Montreal Gazette
January 3, 2014

Inuit hunter Pitseolak Alainga - photo Geoff Robins - Getty images
Inuit hunter Pitseolak Alainga explains how the Inuit traditionally hunt seal to Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Iqaluit in 2010.

I understand the World Trade Organization criticizes the Canadian seal hunt and supports the European Union ban on seal products. The WTO does agree this ban goes against free trade guidelines but that the “moral issue” of animal welfare is important above the livelihoods of people.

This “moral issue” has to do with the seal pup harvesting method. We recall the graphic films of the 1970-’80s showing the clubbing of pups. The wealthy and the celebrated, many of whom are members of animal welfare groups, do influence public opinion. Then, world governments succumb to this bullying form of intimidation for political control. Real people, real economies and real livelihoods get tossed aside by these tactics.

Animal harvesting is not pretty. It needs to be done quickly and deftly without untoward pain.

Animal populations need to be managed as a food source for mankind. Animal numbers need to be managed for the health of their group. Human safety from overpopulation of animals is also a concern.

I live on the West Coast of Canada where seal and sea lion population is robust. This puts pressure on the other fish species, which are our food source. The Arctic and the East Coast of Canada have robust seal populations that are pressuring food fish species and human safety near the water.

Governments should reflect realistic world norms rather than the specific emotions of a portion of the population.

Bruce E. Hornidge, Port Alberni, B.C.



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