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* Misinformation about seal hunt abounds

* Leo Law advocates for Cape Cod seal slaughter

* Seal Products Day bill unnecessary

* Huntwatch movie review

* Inuit sealers say attitudes toward sealing are changing

* End subsidies to the dying sealing industry

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* Sealing is not economically viable

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Seal Hunt 2016 - 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.



Letter: Misinformation about the seal hunt abounds

December 31, 2016

The snow and ice are here and the termites are coming out of the woodwork — what I call the ill-informed bleeding hearts. I am referring to the seal hunt protest that took place in St. John’s in front of Jen Shears’ store, Natural Boutique, on Dec. 11.

Renee Gosse, one of the protesters, was interviewed by CBC Radio’s “On The Go.” When asked why she was protesting the seal hunt, she stated we are trying to educate the people of this province about the seal hunt; it is cruel, wasteful and unnecessary.

I have been hunting and eating seal for more than 70 years. I have watched my grandfather kill pigs, goats and sheep, and chickens when they could no longer lay eggs and, yes, seals; also seabirds, because if he didn’t we would not have survived.

Killing any animal is not a pretty sight, especially killing seals on white ice, the pan red with blood. Seals are shot with high-powered rifles, with the shot aimed at the head, so as not to damage the most valuable part of the seal, the pelt.

The pelt will always be the most valuable part of the seal. It is a beautiful skin used for clothes, the same as mink, fox, beaver and other animals.

The fat is used in a lot of food products, as well as in Omega-3 capsules. For health purposes, I consume eight every day.

As to the claim that 95 per cent of the meat is thrown away, that is not true. Ninety-five per cent of seals killed today are less than a year old. All the flippers are brought ashore and sold, which would account for half of the meat. The rest of the carcass would produce about five pounds of meat after the bones are removed. While not all carcasses are brought ashore, they are put back into the ecosystem to feed other things, the same as a farmer does when the part of the crop he can’t sell is plowed back into the ground and used as fertilizer for next year’s crop.

Gosse said the hunt is unnecessary and taxpayers subsidize it. That is also not true.

It is necessary because we have hunted most things in the ocean almost to extinction, and we have allowed the seal population — 2.2 million prior to 1990 — to explode because of people who are ill-informed and want to impose their values on others. We have lost seal markets and the population of seals has exploded to approximately eight million or nine million seals.

All the fish in the ocean have predators that feed on each other, and the seal, which no longer has a predator thanks to the anti-sealing groups, is the biggest predator and will eat whatever it can get.

We need to have a seal hunt to restore the balance of nature. Unless the seals are kept in check our oceans will never be able to produce their full potential.

We need a seal hunt to bring in much needed money for our coastal communities to survive.

In Gosse’s letter to the editor on Dec. 5, she stated: since I’ve learned about the seal hunt, I’ve come to realize that it reflects poorly on our beautiful province.

Renee Gosse, you have learned nothing about the seal hunt.

Capt. Wilfred Bartlett, retired
Green Bay South


Response to this letter (published in comments. paragraph spaces added):

Capt. Bartlett is misinformed about the seal 'hunt'. Neither Newfoundlanders nor Magdalen Islanders need to kill seals to survive today. Most are fishermen who kill them to earn just a small amount of money before the fishing season begins, and who spend the rest of the off-season getting unemployment. How much more do they make sealing than they would get staying on unemployment a couple more weeks? Let them come out and tell the world.

As far as how these seal pups are killed, in the Maggies, they are killed by beating them over the head with hakapiks, a legal killing tool in Canada. Since the Newfoundlanders killing on the Front start later, when the seal pups have started to learn to swim and could jump into the water if approached on the ice, they use rifles. As you say, they aim for the seals' little head, while on a ship rocking in the ocean. You can imagine how often they miss the head and have to jump out on the ice, walk up to the injured seal pup, and club him or her with the same hakapik used in the Maggies. Then they drag the seal with the hooked end onto the boat.

They have also been filmed by activists from helicopters dragging seals who were not killed, just injured onto boats with these hooks in their mouths. Then the seals were finished off with the hakapiks on the ships.

There is no excuse for wearing an animal's fur in 2017. It is beautiful on the seals, not on humans. Wear fake fur or polyester-filled coats to stay warm.

I don't believe that "all the flippers" are brought ashore. Get real. You and your fellow 70 year old's are the only people who still eat seal flipper pie. And the flesh in the flippers is not half the flesh of the whole seal. Give me a break. Most of these tens of thousands of bodies rot on the ocean floor, which can be a contributor to the high incidence of hypoxia in the Gulf.

It is true that humans - fishermen - have over-fished, causing extinctions and threatening species. The solution is not further mismanagement, which is what the seal 'hunt' is. The solution is to stop over-fishing, stop destroying the oceans with industrial-scale and destructive fishing practices.

The seal population has not exploded. It was decimated by extreme kills and no quotas before 1970, down to below 2 million. This caused alarm and led to the quota system. The population has rebounded in great part due to the lower kill rates in recent years and is now estimated by DFO to be between about 6 and 8 million. This is probably less than the historic population before Europeans came over.

"the seal, which no longer has a predator thanks to the anti-sealing groups..." What? You've forgotten marine biology in your old age. Have you heard of orcas? polar bears? sharks?

As for needing the seal 'hunt' for money, NL is getting hardly any money from sealing. On the contrary, it's 'lending' millions in public money to Carino, a Norwegian company that processes seal pelts. Ask for proof from the government that Carino paid all these loans back. I dare you. No NL is getting plenty of money from oil, not from seals.

I hope you're feeling better informed now, Captain.



Letter: Seal hunt would control Cape problem

Dec 21, 2016

In the Sunday Standard-Times of Dec. 11, the report about gray seals on Cape Cod shores attracting more great white sharks and lowering the stocks of ground fish and striped bass raised safety issues for those who enjoy the water ("A sum of seals").

There is research going on to count the seal population that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, the best solution, I think, is to have a regulated seal hunt each spring when the seals have their pups. Canada has been allowing seal hunts for a long time because their fish stocks can be depleted by the seals.

All parts of the seal are used: the meat, the fat melted down to make seal oil — which is good for you — and the skin, which makes warm clothing. Eskimos have been using seals for thousands of years. So it would be nice if the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game would have a controlled hunt to cull the herd by a few thousand. This could be done by lottery drawings or by issuing permits.

This is a win-win situation for our safety in the waters and helps the fishing industry also, which our economy depends on greatly for employment. So, if the Mass. Fish and Game would approve such a hunt, please count me in. It would be great to harvest a seal. Without a control on the gray seal, they will be way out of control. Then what will you do?

Hunters and biologists keep the wildlife in manageable numbers to survive strong and healthy.

Leo Law
New Bedford



Canada Doesn't Need A 'National Seal Products Day'

By Sheryl Fink
Huffington Post - Canada
November 21, 2016

Sealer dragging seal pup - Canadian Press
Photo: Canadian Press

Occasionally a Private Members' Bill is introduced that is so immaterial, so irrelevant and inconsequential that it defies explanation or public interest. Bill S-208, An Act Respecting National Seal Products Day, appears to be such a bill.

Originally introduced by Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, the self-proclaimed "godmother" of the sealing industry, the bill would designate May 20 as "National Seal Products Day" in Canada. The date was deliberately selected to coincide with Maritime Day in the European Union, with the intention of sending a political message to the EU which, in 2009, banned the import and trade of seal products other than those hunted by indigenous peoples.

But if the creators and supporters of this bill were doing this to get a reaction -- from the EU or elsewhere -- they appear to have failed miserably. No animal protection groups have made a peep about National Seal Products Day, though all are undoubtedly well aware of it. And while almost 2,000 people have signed a petition -- started in Newfoundland -- rejecting National Seal Products Day, Bill S-208 has passed from the Senate to House Committee with little attention.

Designating a national day to celebrate a product -- as opposed to recognizing an individual, group or cultural occasion -- seems strange. It is difficult to see how the East Coast seal "fishery" warrants a special day of its own when we already have National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day. If Parliamentarians wish to recognize the important role of seals in Inuit culture, designating a day to recognize Inuit culture and traditions would be far more appropriate.

Seal pups on ice floe - Randy Risling - Toronto Star - Getty Images
A herd of seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, QC at the beginning of the annual seal hunting season. (Photo: Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Conflating the Inuit and East Coast seal hunt because they are both "sealing" is a mistake, akin to saying that angling and commercial trawling are both "fishing." They are two distinct types of hunts, conducted for different purposes, at different times of year, in different parts of Canada and for different species. While there is a commercial component to Inuit seal hunting (which no animal organization has ever campaigned against), the primary purpose of the Inuit hunt is for food.

The same cannot be said for the East Coast commercial hunt: a market-driven, mass slaughter of wildlife solely for their skins to make luxury products, with government statistics suggesting that 92 per cent of the potentially usable meat is wasted.

Bill sponsor MP Scott Simms claims that National Seal Products Day would help reinvigorate the sealing industry. But let's be realistic: hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for market research and development over the past 30 years has not resulted in a sustainable sealing industry.

The multimillion-dollar bailout loans to seal processors in Newfoundland have succeeded only in creating stockpiles of seal pelts that cannot be sold. The designation of a Fisheries Ambassador to travel the world and fight against seal products bans was an expensive failure. Events such as Seal Day on the Hill -- complete with fancy canapes and MPs tweeting selfies in a borrowed seal fur jackets -- have done nothing to help Inuit, who continue to rely on seal as a source of food and who now have exclusive access to many of the world's commercial markets for their products.

Should National Seal Products Day pass -- as it seems likely to do -- there is no doubt that animal protection organizations will take full advantage of the occasion to showcase video footage from recent commercial seal hunts, the one that occurs off the East Coast and is conducted primarily by non-aboriginal fishermen.

Images of seal pups barely three weeks of age crying and barking as they are hooked, alive and conscious, through the face with a steel boat hook and hauled onto a boat deck. Seals sliced open, breathing, waving their paw in agony from the bottom of a skiff. Not to mention the countless animals shot and left to suffer, only to slip away to their slow lingering deaths from their injuries beneath the ice.

Aside from politicians who will undoubtedly come to question the wisdom behind a day that requires a symbolic donning of heavy seal fur garments on a warm day in late May, Canadians are no more likely to support the seal hunt on National Seal Products Day than they are to give away their money on National Philanthropy Day (November 15).

Maritime Day in the EU appears to be a professional, sophisticated occasion, with analyses and discussions on maritime policy, fostering innovation, and sustainability. That Canada's proposed equivalent focuses on clubbing the skulls of baby seals is absurd and will only reinforce the image of Atlantic Canada as a backwater. Indeed, National Seal Products Day will most likely be considered -- should anyone outside of Ottawa actually pay attention to it -- as an embarrassing joke, complete with tired quips about a baby harp seal walking into a bar and asking for "anything but a Canadian Club."

The comment was made several times during debate that National Seal Products Day "makes a statement, not a holiday." But statements will do precious little to benefit Inuit sealers who could use real and tangible assistance in accessing the markets for products from their full-use seal hunt. They also fail to provide viable alternatives for fishermen in Atlantic Canada, for whom the sealing industry is a dangerous, short-term, seasonal activity that continues to rely on government financial support.

Inuit seal hunters and East Coast fishermen do not need statements or symbolism; they need action and alternatives.



Review: Seal hunting is the target of the unflinching documentary 'Huntwatch'

By Michael Rechtshaffen
Sept. 16, 2016

adult harp seal - IFAW 2003
An adult harp seal sits in the foreground as a helicopter lands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada in 2003 from the documentary "Huntwatch." (Stewart Cook / International Fund for Animal Welfare)

The ongoing clash between activism and politics played out on the ice floes of Atlantic Canada is penetratingly — and unflinchingly — portrayed in “Huntwatch,” a chronicle of the efforts of the International Fund for Animal Welfare as personified by its soulful founder, Brian Davies.

Originally invited by the Canadian government back in the mid-’60s to monitor seal-hunting practices off the coast of Newfoundland, the Welsh-born Davies would end up spending the rest of his life bearing witness to the wholesale slaughter of baby harp seals, determined to stop hunters, often struggling fishermen, in their inhumane tracks.

Among his attempts to get the word out long before social media was an option, the media-savvy Davies would fly groups of people, from airline attendants to Brigitte Bardot, out to view the carnage first-hand.

As effectively demonstrated by director Brant Backlund, the efforts of the IFAW to bring international attention to the annual hunt didn’t sit well with local politicians who over the years would raise quotas during times of economic hardship.

“The Canadian government accused me of manipulating the media, which, of course, I was doing,” Davies, now 78, explains in his calmly matter-of-fact, Anthony Hopkins-esque, tones.

Produced and funded by the IFAW, the Ryan Reynolds-narrated documentary (it also begins airing on Discovery next week), would obviously have to be considered propaganda in its own right.

Still, when taking in a disturbingly graphic sequence of a clearly grieving mother seal helplessly watching her skinned-alive baby being dragged away in the crimson-streaked snow, it’s hard to begrudge the agenda.


Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills.



Are attitudes around seal products changing?
Feds put out call for proposals for $5.7M to support indigenous seal industry

By Sima Sahar Zerehi
CBC News
May 17, 2016

Seal Day on Parliament Hill
Industry, government and community leaders gathered for a seal dinner to commemorate Seal Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Office of the Minister of Fisheries)

The federal government is calling for proposals for the $5.7 million allotted to bolster the seal industry in Indigenous communities, a signal that attitudes around seal products may be changing.

"People have come to understand that it isn't what the animal rights activists are trying to portray out there — we do harvest our seals in a sustainable way," said fisheries minister and Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo.

"When I was in Brussels last month I wore my sealskin tie over there. I got lots of comments on it, and people saw the shoes, they wanted to order shoes."

Tootoo has made a habit of sporting sealskin ties and accessories wherever he goes.

On his recent visit to the White House, Tootoo even gifted the sealskin tie he was wearing to U.S. President Barack Obama, after he said he liked it.

Seal Day on the Hill

Hunter Tootoo
'People have come to understand that it isn’t what the animal rights activists are trying to portray out there,' says fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo. (Office of the Minister of Fisheries)

This year at Parliament Hill's annual Seal Day, a showcase of sealskin parkas and handicrafts, the federal government announced a call for proposals for a $5.7 million funding program to help Indigenous communities market and sell sealskin products to the world.

"It means a lot because we need the money," said Nunavut environment minister Johnny Mike.

Mike said the funds would go a long way in bolstering the sealing industry across the territory.

The money is from the Certification and Market Access Program for Seals (CMAPS), a five-year program that sets up evaluation and tracking systems to ensure seal products harvested by Indigenous communities can be sold in the European Union.

The program also supports Indigenous seal products, businesses, and access to new markets for the commercial seal industry.

Reviving the commercial market for sealskin products has been a priority for Nunavut since anti-sealing campaigns and the European Union's ban on seal products in 2009 caused pelt prices to plummet.

Last year, the Government of Nunavut negotiated an exemption from the EU ban, which allows the import of seal products certified as harvested by Indigenous peoples.​

Nunavut's environment minister says all these changes mean a difference in this year's Seal Day in Ottawa.

"It's more advanced from last year," said Mike.

"We have a caucus now that is willing to work together to promote and protect our interest in sealing programs and also to further the education to the outside world and to the anti-sealing groups around the world."

'Attitudes are changing'

"I think attitudes are changing and they're changing significantly," said Labrador MP Yvonne Jones.

Jones said events such as Seal Day help inform other politicians in Canada about the cultural and economic significance of the seal industry in the North.

"We want them to understand it and we want them to respect it," said Jones.

"This has been a part of who we are for many, many generations in this country — we have a sustainable harvest and we have one of the most regulated industries in Canada."

Inuit designers and artists have been working for years to highlight the importance of sustainably produced seal products to the economy in the North.

"There are so many talented and creative Nunavut artists who work with sealskin and seal products to make beautiful parkas, kamiks, purses, jewelry and more," said Rowena House, director of the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.

"The market is expanding. Now more than ever, there is a worldwide interest in Nunavut arts and crafts."



Canadian harp seal slaughter must end

Barbara Banaian
Times Writers Group
May 5, 2016

No one wants to buy seal fur. The Canadians are trying to find new markets, including China, but there is not much interest. There is almost no market for seal meat.

Barbara Banaian

Spring is a dangerous time to be a harp seal in Canada. Every spring our neighbor to the north announces a quota for the annual seal hunt, resulting in the destruction of thousands of young seals.

At 2 weeks of age, baby seals become legal to hunt, as that is when their fur is the softest. These young seals are helpless. They are shot or clubbed to death before they even learn to swim. They have big dark eyes, and fluffy white fur, once prized for its beauty and softness.

No market

But there is dwindling demand for seal fur. Seal products were banned in United States in 1972, in the European Union in 2009, and in 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped his nation's sealing and seal imports.

Worldwide, over 35 countries ban import of seal items. Clearly, most of the world is opposed to the seal hunt, and polls show 90 percent of Canadian citizens oppose it, too.

For years, many of us have been signing petitions to stop the seal hunt in Canada, and yet it persists. The Humane Society of the United States still calls it "the largest slaughter of marine animals on the planet."

No one wants to buy seal fur. The Canadians are trying to find new markets, including China, but there is not much interest. There is almost no market for seal meat, and so it goes to waste on the ice floes.

It is a cruel practice, and the images it evokes disgust many of us. It should probably just go away.

Why subsidies?

But the Canadian government keeps it alive it through subsidies to the sealing industry. According to the International Fund for Animals Welfare, "the Canadian government has thrown away over $50 million in tax dollars since 1996 in subsidies and trade junkets directed at the sealing industry."

It begs asking why governments get involved in failing industries? The sealers do not make much money, the fund reports. They are often fishermen who use the seal hunt to supplement their income by $5,000 to $8,000.

Plus, the seal hunt requires ships to support the 7-week season. About 10 icebreakers, helicopters and patrol planes accompany the sealers, a vestige of long-ago times when dozens of them were lost in the cold and ice. It is an economic drain on Canada.

Because so many have banned the consumption of seal fur, the government has been reduced to marketing campaigns, such as one in China in 2012, to promote seal fur as fashion as well as seal meat as a source of protein. Animal welfare groups in China and the West have teamed up to call for an end to Chinese imports of seal products.

End the aid

When any government subsidizes a losing industry, it ends up with too much of a losing industry. In this case, the seal pelts can languish in warehouses, waiting for a market. Government is protecting an old way of living. But that's not the way of progress. Progress is almost never subsidized by government. Rather it's fueled by innovation, creativity and human spirit.

If the Canadian government would end its subsidies, maybe other business will have a chance to succeed — businesses that are not so cruel and controversial.

If something is failing, the Canadian government is under no obligation to keep it going. Markets are closing. Canada is not only supporting a dying industry, it is not being a good steward of natural resources. Write to the Canadian consulate and tell them to stop this cruel and archaic event.

This is the opinion of Barbara Banaian, a professional pianist who lives in the St. Cloud area. Her column is published the first Friday of the month.



Greenpeace deems seal hunting sustainable

By Vanessa Lieberman
Contributing Writer
Posted to theonlinecurrent.com
May 5, 2016

harbor seal - NOAA
Greenpeace considers seal hunting sustainable. Harbor seal photo courtesy of noaa.gov

When Greenpeace was founded in 1971, the organization was against seal hunting and did whatever could be done to protect harp seals. However, Greenpeace has changed their stance, saying that sealskin products are sustainable within Inuit communities.

In an article titled “Greenpeace slides backwards down a slippery slope,” Ludmila Baars from Greenpeace stated, “We do not, never did and never will promote fur industry… Our position toward seal fur has not changed: the large-scale, unsustainable commercial seal hunt should end, but we respect the right of Arctic Indigenous Peoples to harvest seals.”

At a fashion show on October 22, 2015 in Greenland, Jon Burgwald, an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace, told MSNBC reporter Tony Dokoupil that he thinks seal products can be sustainable.

“We need to move beyond the notion that all sealing and seal products are bad things…it’s actually sustainable. I think it’s good that we can start promoting the sustainable seal products. It’s a sustainable hunt,” Burgwald said.

Many individuals at Greenpeace share Burgwald’s view. They believe that since harp seal hunting has been proved sustainable up to this point, it will remain sustainable.

However, this shift in mindset could threaten the habitat and increase the production of seal products — both factors would have a damaging effect on seal populations. Despite views about sustainability, the seal hunt is brutal and inhumane.

“Regardless of commercial or other, I am opposed to it. Sustainable or not, I am opposed to it. Anyone who has seen the commercial seal hunt knows it is cruel and barbaric,” Rabbi Ed Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal views seal hunting in an ethical light, while others examine logistical facts.

“Is Greenpeace investing in research on these hunts, or are they using secondary data? Maybe Greenpeace should make rules for what is sustainable,” Professor of Environmental Science Elizabeth Forys said.

Harp seals need to be protected before their populations fall too low. Waiting until the last possible minute to protect them could have dire results.

“Commercial sealing needs to stop,” junior Samantha Malkus said.

Harp seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Act. However, if the Inuit people have a permit, they can kill harp seals.

“Is low level commercial sealing acceptable? There is a need to weigh costs and benefits,” Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Noelle Boucquey said.

Boucquey makes an interesting point, but one should keep in mind that low level commercial sealing could become more global. A sustainable seal hunt could be considered impossible. If demand for seal products raises even a little bit, their populations will suffer.

The two main reasons why the Inuit people hunt seals are for tradition and the need to make money so they can purchase other goods. It may be time to try change these and find new ways to make money.

There is a growing interest to observe wildlife in its natural habitats. Greenpeace could help the Inuit people create an infrastructure allowing tourists and researchers to come, study, and enjoy the harp seals. The funds collected from tourists and researchers could replace the funds that are now gathered from sealskin products.

If Greenpeace would consider options like this, it would send hope to these communities and animal lovers at the same time.

Along with hunting, the loss of habitat due to melting caps threatens seal populations as well.

Greenpeace needs to start looking at other approaches that would be sustainable to the Inuit communities and protect the marine wildlife at the same time.



Canadian Seal Hunt Is Not Economically Viable

Cathy Kangas
Member, Board of Directors, Humane Society
March 16, 2016
Huffington Post

Cathy Kangas with seal pup

A few years ago, I spent two days on the ice floes of Newfoundland watching baby seals and their mothers. Snow white, with big trusting eyes, the pups were the picture of innocence, and it was with growing horror I realized that many of these same creatures would later be clubbed, shot and dragged - some still conscious - over the ice floes when the annual commercial seal hunt took place a month later. Now the slaughter is set to begin again, despite lack of demand for seal fur, overwhelming global condemnation and diminishing economic rationale. I ask, what’s the point?

The annual Canadian commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on earth, claiming the lives of more than two million seals since 2002 alone. Yet, in recent years growing backlash has greatly reduced the export market. Thirty-five countries now ban some or all trade in commercial seal products, with markets closed in the United States, Mexico, the European Union and Russia. As a result, the hunt’s value has diminished, as has the number of Canadians engaging in the practice.

There are currently only a few hundred active sealers - down from an estimated 6,000 in 2006 - and in 2014 the total value of commercial seal products coming out of Canada was just $500,000. Yet, according to recently obtained government documents, the hunt is costing Canadians $2 million more than that in annual tax expenditures. This includes $1 million for icebreakers, $475,000 for helicopters and $375,000 in overtime for those monitoring the hunt. It does not take into account the millions more in marketing dollars and subsidies the Canadian and local governments devote to keeping the hunt going.

Sealer about to kill harp seal pup - HSI

Canada regularly pays companies to buy up pelts, and the country spent an estimated $10 million fighting a losing battle against the E.U. ban on seal products. There’s also the incalculable damage to Canada’s reputation, along with potential economic losses from unrealized trade deals with partners opposed to the hunt.

It’s clear that supporting what may once have been a critical economic activity is simply no longer vital or viable. So why is the Canadian government propping up a dying industry? Simply put, political expediency - but caving to the demands of a few fisheries associations doesn’t do any good for the millions of taxpayers who unknowingly abet this cruel economic boondoggle. Surely those funds could be better used buttressing social service programs or the crucial search and rescue services that have been the targets of significant cutbacks over the years.It’s time for the government to encourage local communities to find sustainable new ways to derive economic value from their most iconic wildlife.

In his new book The Humane Economy, The Humane Society of the United States president and CEO Wayne Pacelle points out that industries that compromise animal welfare can cost society many times the revenue generated. In the 19th century, a number of coastal communities hunted whales. However as whaling ended, whale watching was developed, generating new and more lucrative income for these towns.

The same can happen here. A 2010 poll found that half of Newfoundland sealers actually support a plan that would buy back their licenses, compensate them for their losses and develop new economic alternatives in the communities involved. Humane Society International, which has a strong presence in Canada devoted in part to ending the slaughter, supports this plan. And, with major export markets closing and Canadian taxpayers growing tired of footing the bill, there is little alternative for the major stakeholders. To be certain, the opposition isn’t going anywhere.

The HSUS and HSI will continue to expose the cruelty of the commercial seal hunt for the world to see. Concerned chefs and food retailers will continue to avoid Canadian seafood as a means of pressuring the industry to stop the slaughter. Nations all around the world will continue to institute bans against the import of seal products. And the vast majority of Canadian people will continue to oppose the hunt, as they have done for many years.

Prime Minister Trudeau has an opportunity here to make history by doing as they, and many sealers, want by supporting a seal industry buyout. The world would applaud this action; it would restore Canada’s reputation as a nation that cares for its wildlife, and it would bring to an end a needless economic drain on taxpayers. If done right, it could also revitalize local communities through enhanced eco-tourism. Visitors will appreciate more opportunities to watch the seals at play - as I did, but without the terrible knowledge of what’s to come.



Why seal hunting may come back to bite humans

By: Charles C. Camosy
gazette.com, cruxnow.com
March 11, 2016

harp seal mother and pup - Paul Darrow - Reuters
A harp seal pup rested in front of its mother on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. Protesters want the annual hunt called off. (Paul Darrow / Reuters)

(RNS) Canadian seal hunting has been controversial for decades, but its cruel and inhumane violence has come under special scrutiny this week. This is not only because we are coming up on peak season for the killings of these creatures (usually mid-to-late March), but also because Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the White House, and he is facing considerable backlash for his support of the practice.

Public opinion has consistently opposed seal hunting and the European Union and United States have banned the import of seal fur to their countries.

The main defense of seal hunting is that it’s necessary for the financial stability of the indigenous populations who engage in the practice. But Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, has shown that the hunt is a huge economic loser.

The Canadian government is spending $2.5 million each year just to monitor the commercial seal hunt, which had an export value of only $500,000 in 2014. And that doesn’t take into account the many millions of subsidies and financing that the Canadian and provincial governments sink into product purchasing, development, processing, and marketing every year.

Pacelle has a new book coming out in April, “The Humane Economy,” in which he makes the broader point that protecting seals and other creatures is good for both human and animals. Indeed, he expertly demonstrates that industries that are cruel to animals cost society many times the revenues they generate.

I’ve tried to highlight this in my own work on animal ethics, focusing in particular on how factory farming billions of animals contributes to climate change, the creation of drug-resistant bacteria, economic inefficiency, worker injustice, and more. God’s creation is so tightly interconnected that treating one aspect of that creation with wanton cruelty and disregard comes back to bite humanity as well.

Pope Francis’ magisterial work of ecological theology, “Laudato Si’”could not have been more explicit about the interrelatedness of human and nonhuman. The pope insists the natural world “cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves” and it is no longer possible to separate how we treat human beings from how we treat the whole of God’s creation.

He insists we need “comprehensive solutions” that “demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Demonstrating deep resonances with the central argument of Pacelle’s book, Francis also suggests we need to develop an “economic ecology” that ties our treatment of God’s creation to our economic problems.

Groups like the Humane Society now have flourishing “Faith Outreach” programs that are building on the growing interest of religious traditions in helping to protect animals. This movement goes well beyond Roman Catholicism, with growing interest among several evangelical figures and churches. I’m part of the society’s “Faith Advisory Council” which includes not only many different kinds of Christians, but Muslim and Jewish figures as well.

As a professor of Christian ethics, I can tell you that the issue of animal protection is absolutely exploding onto the theological scene. We had our first meeting of the “Animal Ethics Interest Group” this past January at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the energetic crowd was from all over the theological and political map.

There is a movement afoot.

Many pioneers in the animal protection movements find this puzzling. For decades now, many of them thought of religious figures and institutions as antagonists. Wasn’t the view that humans were made sacred in the image of God, and given dominion over animals, deeply problematic? Princeton’s Peter Singer argued for a direct and sustained frontal assault on the religious traditions that espouse the sanctity of life ethic.

But especially as religious traditions continue to mobilize their considerable resources in the service of animal protection, Singer and others have begun to see them as allies rather than enemies. An authentic understanding of the dominion God has given human beings over animals leads one to conclude that we are called to be stewards and protectors. An authentic understanding of the value of God’s creation leads one to conclude that, though there is a hierarchy of being (seals, though valuable, do not matter as much as human beings), all life is deeply interrelated.

When we are cruel to a fellow creature, we not only harm that creature, we also harm ourselves.

(Charles C. Camosy is associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University. Twitter: @CCamosy)



Robert D. Kenney and David W. Gregg: Make the seal R.I.'s official sea mammal

Feb. 10, 2016
By Robert D. Kenney and David W. Gregg

The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a bill to designate the harbor seal as the official state marine mammal (“Seal proposed as official marine mammal,” news, Jan. 15). House Bill 7111 was introduced last month by Representatives Samuel Azzinaro, Brian Patrick Kennedy, Joseph McNamara and Arthur Corvese, at the encouragement of the Ocean Community and North Kingstown Chambers of Commerce, Save the Bay, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo. The bill was slated for consideration by the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Harbor seals Prudence Island
A pair of harbour seals bask in the sun off the northern end of Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay. PROVIDENCE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO

We strongly support this legislation, and encourage the House and Senate to enact it into law. This sort of publicity can only be a good thing for wildlife populations. Let’s build on this positive momentum and see if we are doing all that we can to protect Rhode Island’s iconic wildlife, such as harbor seals.

Harbor seals are one of only three dozen species of marine mammals that can occupy the marine waters of southern New England, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and the occasional wandering manatee. The manatee and six whale species, including humpback whales such as the ones that have been spotted around Narragansett Bay over the last month, are classified as endangered under federal law. Endangered species are much more in need of protection than seals.

Harbor seals, on the other hand, appear to be doing very well. Harbor seal populations in New England have grown substantially since passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. Our harbor seals are actually animals that breed mostly in Maine and Canada, representing less than a tenth of that total population. They come south for the winter, arriving around October and departing in April. Why they don’t stay all summer is not known, but it may be because the water gets warm enough for sharks, which would like nothing better than to snack on a fat, newly weaned seal pup.

We need to know more about the status of harbor seals in Rhode Island at any given time, not least so that we can better recognize changes due to development, climate or other impacts. Were there more harbor seals around Narragansett Bay in the late 1990s than in the late 1960s? How about changes from 2000 to 2015?
Surprisingly, we can answer the first question more easily than the second, because of a University of Rhode Island student’s thesis from 2000. But there is no ready source of data to begin answering the second question, about more recent trends in seals. And what about population trends in all the other local marine mammals, or in the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that live within Rhode Island’s borders?

The Rhode Island Natural Heritage program was jointly conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Nature Conservancy to track rare species in the state. The Heritage database was the go-to source for all information about rare species of plants and animals. However, the Heritage program has not received adequate financial resources for many years, and the Heritage database has become sadly out of date.

For the past few years, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, DEM, the Nature Conservancy and URI have been working collaboratively to make the Heritage database current. A small grant from the Conservation Stewardship Collaborative will allow a multi-year backlog of Heritage data to be entered this spring, but there are still no resources allocated for updating and managing the database on a continuous basis into the future.

We encourage the Rhode Island House and Senate to use the declaration of our new state marine mammal as an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to Rhode Island’s wildlife, both within the state and in the nearby ocean, by appropriating sufficient funding for DEM and its project partners to better monitor the plants and animals that make up our natural heritage.

Robert D. Kenney, a marine mammal ecologist who is retired from the oceanography research faculty at URI, is a board member and past president of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, an independent non-profit based in Kingston. David W. Gregg is the executive director of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.



[Harpseals.org: The Inuit were given an exemption to the EU ban on seal product imports due to their claim that this ban adversely affected their traditional way of life, which includes subsistence hunting of seals. Read more about this controversial issue here.]

Canadian government supports Inuit seal hunt

Mary Simon
June 11-2008 National Inuit leader Mary Simon wears a sealskin vest while speaking as Canada’s (then) Prime Minister Stephen Harper (bottom L) listens in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Photo: Reuters- Crhis Wattie

February 1, 2016
By Marc Montgomery

With a massive and ongoing campaign against seal hunting by various activist groups the seal-hunting industry in Canada had all but collapsed in the past several years.

Unfortunately it also took with it a much needed source of revenue and jobs for indigenous peoples in Canada who had always hunted seal for sustenance and clothing. There had been growing interest in products, primarily a variety of clothing made with seal fur to create items from boots and mittens, to vests, coats, purses and others.

After some effort, the European Union, which had banned seal products from being sold in their market, made a provision for allowance of indigenous seal products.

The EU requires that only seal products harvested by Indigenous people and certified by a recognized body are allowed to be sold in the EU.

However, there was no real certification process in Canada, and although Nunavut’s government was recognized as a certification authority by the EU, the market now was so weak, that even though indigenous products were allowed, there still was little market for them.

In 2015, the federal government in Canada announced a $5.7 million programme over five years called the Certification and Market Access Program for Seals (CMAPS)

Nicole Camphaug
July 2015-Nunavut Designer Nicole Camphaug showcases samples of her modern sealskin-covered footware in her Iqaluit home. It all started with her own pair of neglected boots. ’I was going to sell them, but then I thought, ’Hmm… I’m going to try something.’ Photo: John Van Dusen/CBC

The idea was to create a certification and tracking system so that seal products created by aboriginals in Canada can be sold to Europe.

In a press release today, Peter Taptuna, Premier of Nunavut was quoted saying, “The EU ban on the import of seal products continues to affect Nunavut sealskin prices. The establishment of CMAPS supports our continued efforts to promote sealing as a sustainable industry, and actively market this important product through the Inuit exemption. It is also an opportunity to strengthen international knowledge and break down barriers to understanding why the sealing economy is so important to our people.”

Today an agreement was signed by the federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard and the Premier of Nunavut Territory signed the first agreement in that plan to hand over $150,000 in federal funds to the territory..

The Government of Nunavut will use the new funds to lead a number of projects in collaboration with the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association and others. These projects aim to increase the amount and market value of sealskin products, reinvigorate the industry overall, and bring awareness and opportunity to Inuit about accessing the EU and other markets.

Currently, the Nunavut Department of Environment is the only Canadian recognized body designated to certify that seals harvested in Nunavut meet the requirement of the EU Regulation.

In announcing the handover of funds, Minister Hunter Tootoo said, “The seal harvest is a traditional way of life for Canada’s Indigenous people, and it provides a key source of food, clothes and income for many Inuit families. This financial agreement will help Inuit families to create value-added seal products and it is a key way in which this Government is demonstrating its commitment to supporting northern economic development.”


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