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Seal Hunt 2017 - 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.


It’s time to end Canada’s bloody seal slaughter

Waterloo Region Record
By Danielle Katz
April 21, 2017

Harp seal - Canadian Press
File photo, The Canadian Press
A harp seal sits in the sun in this photo off of Prince Edward Island.

This year marks Canada's 150th birthday. But as it prepares to celebrate, a dark cloud hangs over the festivities: the bloodbath that takes place off the East Coast every year. I'm talking about Canada's commercial seal slaughter, which began earlier this month. As you read this, baby seals are likely being shot to death or bludgeoned with hakapiks, deadly hooked clubs with a sharp metal tip.

Canada's commercial seal slaughter is the largest mass killing of marine mammals on Earth and it has become a stain on the country's international reputation. If we want this year's to be the last one, every kind person must rally.

Thanks to sustained activism by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others, we are close to ending it, but that's little consolation to the tens of thousands of baby seals who will still be killed this year. Sealers object to calling these animals "babies," of course, but that's exactly what they are. Many are slaughtered before they've even eaten their first solid meal or learned how to swim. While sealers are not allowed to kill "whitecoats," infants with iconic fluffy white fur, they are permitted to kill the animals as soon as the fur is shed, when the pups are only about three weeks of age. Most are killed when they're between three weeks and three months old.

These babies are defenceless and have no escape from the violence that rains down on them. Eyewitnesses have seen weeks-old pups shot in the face and wounded pups left to choke on their own blood as sealers rushed to attack the next fleeing victim. This horrific spectacle is repeated again and again on Canada's ice floes every spring, and for what? For fur, a frivolous product that no one needs or even wants.

All major markets for seal fur have closed, including in the U.S., the EU and Russia. This month, Switzerland became the 35th country to ban imports of seal-derived products. And despite a marketing blitz that has cost Canadian taxpayers millions, China — where PETA Asia is active — has shown little interest in buying seal skins or meat. In desperation, the industry is now trying to revive the trade in seal penises, dubiously marketing them as aphrodisiacs.

One by one, Canada's excuses for continuing to defend the slaughter are disappearing. The commercial East Coast slaughter is not a subsistence activity but rather an off-season venture that enables a few small fishing villages to earn some pocket change. When you factor in costs such as deploying the Coast Guard for several weeks each year to break up ice and rescue stranded sealers, flying delegations around the world to try to fight bans on seal fur, activist surveillance, and funding the seal-hunt bureaucracy, the seal slaughter hits Canadian taxpayers hard.

And while commercial fishers have long scapegoated harp seals for diminishing cod populations, a scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says that the evidence for this claim is lacking. To the contrary, cod and seal populations have both grown over the last 10 years, according to John Brattey, who believes the seals actually prefer eating other types of fish. "We often find that seals are blamed for a lot of things," he says.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tackled many social issues since taking office. Now, he has another opportunity to offer help to others who desperately need it: baby seals. Please take a moment to urge Prime Minister Trudeau to lift the cloud darkening Canada's anniversary celebrations by ending federal subsidies of the commercial seal slaughter. Then use your social media accounts to help spread the word and get more people involved. Together, we can help make 2017 the year that this cruel massacre is brought to an end.

Danielle Katz is an associate director with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, Va. 23510.



This Earth Day, Let’s Stand Up for Canadian Wildlife

By Gabriel Wildgen, Humane Society International/Canada
Guest Blogger for Voices for Wildlife, voices.nationalgeographic.com
April 20, 2017

Grizzlies - Ian McAlister
Photo credit Ian McAllister

Canadians take pride in wild animals as symbols of our country’s deep connection to nature. Images of beavers, caribous, loons and polar bears adorn Canadian coins. Canada’s major airports welcome visitors with murals of breathtaking landscapes, complete with magnificent bears, whales and birds. These same visitors might also be shocked, however, to learn how abysmal many of Canada’s wildlife policies are, and that they’re made all the more glaringly apparent during April, when the world celebrates Earth Day.

The first day of April marked the beginning of the spring bear hunt, where hundreds of grizzlies are shot to death annually in British Columbia –with the full support of the provincial government– just so that trophy hunters can hang their heads, paws, and pelts up on a wall and share pictures of their kill on social media. This happens despite the fact that over 90 percent of B.C. residents are opposed to trophy hunting.

Every April, off the east coast of Newfoundland, federally licensed hunters shoot, impale and bludgeon tens of thousands of baby seals who are already facing dire threats to their survival from climate change. This continues despite polls showing that a majority of Canadians want to see the Atlantic commercial seal hunt ended and despite 40 countries worldwide—including the United States, the European Union nations, Russia and China— that prohibit the trade in products of commercial seal hunts or protect their seal populations from commercial hunting.

While April is a particularly dangerous time of year for Canadian wildlife, these kinds of mass, government-backed slaughters of wild animals continue throughout the entire year in Canada.

For instance, rather than implementing urgently-needed habitat restoration and protection measures to mitigate the damage done by resource-extraction industries, provincial governments in provinces such as B.C. and Alberta commission cruel mass culls of wolves in the name of protecting caribou and moose. This is despite plenty of scientific research showing that these culls are usually ineffective, and can often create new problems while making existing ones worse.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Canadian animals – both wild and domestic– are caught in traps designed to strangle, drown, crush or restrain them until they die or until trappers find and kill them.

Perhaps worse off still are the millions of minks, foxes and other wild animals who are farmed for fur in Canada each year, languishing in small wire cages where they cannot engage in their most basic natural behaviours, and suffer from the physical and psychological trauma that results.

Last year, hunting and angling groups successfully blocked a federal bill that would have updated the criminal code, with modest measures to help law enforcement prosecute animal abusers. One of the reasons given was that the provision to make “brutal and vicious” killing of an animal illegal might apply to their own treatment of animals in their leisure time. The fact that these groups thought that these words might apply to their own actions speaks volumes, as does the fact that their influence over the Canadian Parliament is so strong that the bill was ultimately defeated by dozens of votes.

So this Earth Day, by all means, please do commit to common-sense measures to lower your environmental footprint by reducing waste, recycling more, using less energy and eating less meat. But don’t stop there. Get informed about the wildlife issues and take action to support the groups defending wild animals whenever possible. If you’re Canadian, pick up a pen, or better yet your phone, and write or call your representatives in government to tell them that you don’t support wild animal abuse, and neither should they.

It’s time for leaders at all levels of government in Canada to stop siding with the minority of Canadians who would rather kill wild animals than save them. Canadian politicians need to start acting in accordance with Canadian values, and put our public policies back in line with the wildlife-friendly image we project to the world.

Gabriel Wildgen is a campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada



Letter: Seal hunt should be encouraged, not shut down

March 27, 2017

Sealing vessel-James McLeod,The Telegram file photo
A sealing vessel moves along the edge of an icefield in the Gulf of St. Lawrence searching for animals to hunt in this file photo taken a few years ago from a helicopter chartered by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.. James McLeod,The Telegram file photo

We have an exploding seal population, our crab and shrimp stocks are declining at a fast rate, our caplin are at an all-time low and our cod stocks are not developing as fast as they should.

The anti-sealing groups are condemning our seal hunt and one of their reasons is that we are not fully utilizing the animal, but let’s face facts — there is nothing that we can do to satisfy them as long as the bleeding hearts are funding them. There is no difference in killing a seal than in killing a pig, cow, sheep, chicken or any other animal.

The last 20 years we have been searching for a market for seal skins, fat, meat and organs. A small company established in Fleur de Lys has finally found that market and had that order partly filled when, lo and behold, what does the federal Department of Fisheries do? They shut down the hunt.

A few more days of harvesting older seals when they are at their prime could have filled that order, and could have led to many more if well received by this new market.

I have always said that DFO is more concerned with the anti-sealing groups than they are with what’s happening in the ocean and the rural communities around the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Where are our politicians? It’s time for them to start earning their money.

We have upset the balance of nature in the Atlantic Ocean and we have to work together to regain that balance.

So far, I have seen the complete opposite.

Capt. Wilfred Bartlett, retired
Green Bay South



Sealers Want To Start Annual Hunt During Pup Season. Enough Is Enough

By Sheryl Fink

As if the poor harp seals didn't have it bad enough. Earlier this year poor ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence led scientists to predict that many pups were likely to drown or become crushed to death in the ice. Now, sealers in Newfoundland want to open the annual slaughter two weeks early, removing one of the few protections remaining for this iconic Canadian species.

Grey seal pup - Kevin Prannecke via Getty Images
Photo: Kevin Prannecke via Getty Images

Harp seal pups are born on the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Late February, and on the Front off Newfoundland in early March. This timing is variable, however, and may be affected by changing ice conditions, with pupping being delayed or extended in years of poor ice conditions.

Harp seal pups are highly dependent on their mothers for the first two weeks of life. In order to allow harp seal mothers to give birth and nurse their pups, Fisheries and Oceans Canada closes the Commercial and Personal Use seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador for a short period, usually a few weeks. This closure also reduces the risk that whitecoat seal pups will be killed.

But now, fisheries unions in Newfoundland and Labrador are demanding an early opening of the hunt, supposedly so that fishermen may kill adult seals.

But this argument seems suspicious, since 95 per cent of the harp seals killed in recent years have been pups under three months of age (colloquially known as "beaters") which are targeted primarily for their skins. Other than limited local demand, there are few markets for seal meat, and according to landed catch statistics some 92 per cent of the meat from the annual hunt is being wasted.

The most valuable part of an adult harp seal in recent years has been its penis, raising renewed concerns about increased involvement in the bogus seal-penis sex potion trade.

It is virtually impossible to identify an adult female from an adult male harp seal at a distance. Although the Marine Mammal Regulations prohibit killing adult seals in whelping patches, it is difficult to see how this will be enforced. DFO themselves state that the annual closure is intended "to allow time for seal whelping and nursing." Opening the annual slaughter before pups are weaned raises the possibility that nursing females will be killed, leaving their pups to starve to death.

In addition, it increases the likelihood that adult seals will be shot at in the water at a time when their blubber reserves are low, and chances of sinking are high. The 2005 report of the Independent Veterinarians Working Group on the Canadian Harp Seal Hunt recommended that seals should not be shot in the water due to the high probability of being "struck and lost" or wounded, causing unnecessary suffering.

For their part, Fisheries and Oceans has said they have not decided whether to bent to the sealers' demands. It's time to say enough is enough. We cannot allow the few protections still offered to wildlife to be whittled away at the demands of those industries who wish to exploit it and kill for profit.

Please take action and let Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc know that allowing the commercial seal slaughter to proceed while helpless pups are still nursing from their mothers is absolutely unacceptable. Harp seals are already facing threats from climate change and commercial exploitation; we should not be removing one of the few remaining protections left for this species.

The commercial slaughter of seals on Canada's east coast is an industry that should be ended, not expanded.



CULTURE Against animal rights activism
Angry Inuk challenges mainstream anti-seal rhetoric

Written by: Annie Rubin
Visual by: Cindy Lao
The McGill Daily
March 13, 2017

In the vast snowy landscape of Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril narrates a true-to-life image of the cultural practice of seal hunting within Inuit communities. Studying a photo of two joyful toddlers with bright red mouths raising blood-stained bloody fingers, she chuckles at the thought that this playful moment may look bizarre to an outsider.

In popular imagination, the Inuit community of Nunavut is often envisioned living in igloos and idealized as a contained, self-sufficient group that is untouched by the passage of time. Arnaquq-Baril refutes such stereotypes in the documentary, Angry Inuk, screened at Cinema du Parc last month. The film shows how Inuit peoples have not only been subject to evolving thresholds for survival within the growing capitalist economy, but are also excluded from Eurocentric notions of modernity. Illuminating the colonial context in Canada and addressed to a global audience, Arnaquq-Baril speaks to the deteriorating living and working conditions of her Indigenous community as a result of environmental activists’ misrepresentation of seal hunting.

Beyond its value as a food source to Inuit peoples, seal hunting sustains Nunavut’s economic structure through an intergenerational cycle. Inuit peoples use the entirety of the animal: the community is fed, and mittens, coats, and shawls are produced. The seal skins are also sold to the Canadian government. The money made is then used to buy gas as a means to continue hunting in order to feed their family. To complete the cycle, the skills of seal hunting are passed down from generation to generation.

Arnaquq-Baril illustrates the fight and the frustration she faces on behalf of her community when mainstream animal rights activism declines her access to the public conversation on seal hunting. The success of this activism peaked in the seventies when the United Nations approved a ban on seal products in the international market.

In response, the makers of Angry Inuk travelled across the world to lobby the U.N. to abolish it. The documentary follows them in their creation of an online community and the beginnings of their counterprotest. Their efforts, however, would fail in the face of well-endowed anti-seal campaigns.

This ban, although it includes a clause which allows for the Inuit peoples to continue their hunt, has negatively affected the community. Seal skin prices have dramatically declined, which has an impact on all facets of Inuit daily life, especially when a cabbage in Nunavut can cost $27. When the ban was introduced, its disruption amplified the marginalization and oppression Indigenous populations already face, resulting in such bleak consequences as increased suicide rates. With a detailed account of life in Iqaluit, Arnaquq-Baril shows the devastating effects of mainstream animal rights activism on her community.

Angry Inuk presents the anti-seal activist National Government Organizations as near-caricatures that are as absorbed in their cause as they are tragically misguided. The documentary uses illustrations, statistics, and interviews to evoke aggravation in the audience while maintaining a tone of restraint and understated anger. The audience learn that the adorable, fluffy seals are not in danger, and that activist groups exploit the sensationalist image of the teary seal because it produces a huge profit. In reality, all seals are teary, not due to sadness, but due to the harsh cold.

By challenging activist groups to reconsider their skewed vision of her lived reality, Arnaquq-Baril demonstrates the violence of climate change activism that ignores the ways of life, culture, and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples. Organizations like Greenpeace use gory campaign images to target Inuit seal hunters, demonizing Inuit communities and perpetuating colonial and racial stereotypes. The celebrity followings of such organizations further undercut Indigenous activism. Angry Inuk calls for change both poignantly and earnestly as Arnaquq-Baril takes a stand for her Inuit community.

Angry Inuk highlights the importance of self-representation and the potency of social media activism. The film challenges traditional anti-seal rhetoric with starkly beautiful images, illustrating a haunting problem that is ultimately unresolved. It also makes clear the audience’s responsibility in relieving the plight of Inuit peoples living in socio-economic marginalization. Inuk anger may not be plastered on multimillion dollar billboards but it is nonetheless essential.



Response (which McGill Daily refused to publish):

Annie Rubin’s review of the film Angry Inuk contains inaccurate and misleading information. The film itself seeks to portray the Inuit as victims and deflect any sympathy for the millions of baby harp seals who have been brutally killed for their fur by commercial sealers, almost all of whom are white men from Newfoundland and Quebec.

Rubin wrote, "Organizations like Greenpeace use gory campaign images to target Inuit seal hunters, demonizing Inuit communities and perpetuating colonial and racial stereotypes." This is shear nonsense. Animal protection organizations have not targeted the Inuit or Inuit sealing at all. Our campaigns are against commercial sealing - the sealing industry of off-season fishermen of Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands. Anti-sealing organizations specifically state that they are not opposing Inuit sealing (whether subsistence or commercial). Harpseals.org discusses Inuit sealing and contrasts Inuit commercial sealing with subsistence sealing, setting the record straight with respect to the Eurpean Union ban on seal product imports. However, Harpseals.org has not campaigned against Inuit sealing either.

Rubin also claimed that the Inuit are “excluded from Eurocentric notions of modernity.” On the contrary, they embrace modern culture and technology. They have access to high speed internet, and they use snowmobiles and motorboats, rifles, and any other modern tools they can. The Inuit take advantage of concessions granted to indigenous peoples based on the notion that, if these people choose to continue their traditional way of life in the harsh environments in which their ancestors lived for centuries or millennia, governments should allow them to engage in traditional activities that others are prohibited from engaging in. Thus the Inuit can kill seals without a license or quota.

However, Angry Inuk producer, Arnaquq-Baril, has protested that Inuit should not be expected to live traditional, subsistence lifestyles. They should be able to adopt all modern conveniences, technologies, and lifestyles while still taking advantage of the special concessions granted them.

Rubin wrote that the Inuit were victims of campaigns to stop the commercial harp seal massacre because, after the European Union ban, prices for seal skins decreased. Prices are down because people around the world have learned about the cruelty of the seal slaughter. They have seen videos of seals being bludgeoned to death, of seals who are shot, bleeding from the mouth but not dead, being gaffed in their mouths and dragged onto bloody sealing boats, where they are then beaten to death for their skins. People around the world have clamored for bans on imports of these vanity products of suffering, and due to this declining demand, prices have dropped.

Rubin then said that Inuit make money by selling seal skins to the government. What use does the Canadian government have for seal skins? If it is buying Inuit seal skins, this is just a form of welfare payment. As such, the government could pay them $1000 per skin, if it wanted to. Government purchases are certainly not subject to market price fluctuations.

The Inuit need not be angry. Cultures change all the time. Mayans stop sacrificing young virgins, Americans stop enslaving blacks, Europe is no longer ruled by churches that kill heretics, women no longer wear petticoats, and so on. Some may lament the changes, but most embrace them. If commercial sealing is no longer a viable option for whatever number of Inuit people have engaged in it, there is no need to pine for days past. The future holds infinite possibilities for the Inuit along with everyone else. Just as fishermen/sealers from Newfoundland continue to move on to better jobs and a better life, whether in Atlantic Canada or elsewhere, so the Inuit can (and do) pursue other opportunities, whether in northern Canada or in more hospitable locales.

-Diana Marmorstein, Ph.D.


Government Report On Salmon Ignores Science, Recommends Grey Seal Cull

By Sheryl Fink, IFAW
Feb. 1, 2017

With little fanfare, Canada's Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans released a report this week on Wild Salmon in Eastern Canada. Between Trump and terror attacks, the report is unlikely to receive much media attention. But it is worth noting how despite Liberal promises of "Real Change" and "treating science with respect," when it comes to the political proclivity for killing seals the song remains the same.

Grey seal - Photocech - via Getty Images

The report begins sensibly, acknowledging that the best scientific information suggests an increasing abundance of grey seals is not impacting the recovery of salmon. It then -- illogically -- goes on to recommend a seal cull, stating that the Committee "agrees with the majority of witnesses, and believes that predation is an issue" [emphasis added].

Specifically, the Committee recommended that "Fisheries and Oceans Canada support a grey seal harvest program that emphasizes full utilization of the seal to provide economic opportunities with an aim to significantly reduce the seal populations and enhance the recovery of wild Atlantic salmon populations."

This recommendation shows a blatant and complete disregard for the scientific evidence presented to the Committee concerning the impact of grey seal predation on salmon. Whether or not a politician "believes" in the science should be irrelevant when it comes to responsible fisheries management.

Although the Committee does not quantify how many animals it believes would need to be killed to "significantly reduce the seal populations," there is absolutely no credible argument to suggest that doing so would enhance recovery of wild salmon.

There is neither scientific evidence that grey seals are impacting salmon stocks, nor anything to indicate that a seal cull would improve salmon recovery. In fact, scientists warn that killing off top predators such as seals could make the situation worse, resulting in unexpected and undesired consequences on salmon and other species.

In some respects, the recommendation that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) support a commercial grey seal harvest is immaterial; DFO has already been supporting a grey seal hunt for decades. But despite a current allowable catch of 60,000 animals and ongoing financial support to the industry to develop new products, the reality is there are no markets for dead grey seals and fewer than a thousand animals are killed each year.

It's not for lack of trying. Millions of dollars have been invested, and countless studies conducted, in attempt to appease the fishing industry's demand to kill seals. But three decades of effort to find markets for grey seal products have failed. A recent proposal under consideration by DFO suggested that the most viable market for grey seals was to kill them for their penis and testicles, to be "dried and sold as sexual enhancement products, primarily to Asian buyers." An earlier study commissioned by the government suggested shooting 220,000 grey seals at a taxpayer cost of $35 million, and burning their bodies in incinerators.

If fisheries policy is to be based on the best available science, whether or not our politicians "believe" the science should not be a factor. The recommendation for a cull of grey seals is not supported by any scientific evidence, and to suggest that killing seals will enhance salmon recovery is dishonest.

Seals, salmon, and science will all suffer if the a grey seal cull is implemented. It will now be up to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc to uphold his government's commitment to science by rejecting the recommendation for a grey seal cull. The question is, will he?


Seal meat may turn some stomachs, but Inuit country food is smart

'We eat what we know. We like to eat the things we grew up with'

By Yvette Brend
CBC News
Jan. 14, 2017

Polar bear with dead seal - Jonathan Hayward - Canadian Press
Polar bears agree: seal meat is delicious. This bear drags his favourite meal along the ice flow in Baffin Bay above the arctic circle. Apex predators thrive on seal meat because of its high nutritional value. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

When a Vancouver chef put seal on the menu this week he attracted some negative attention — but in Nunavut icy chunks of raw whale blubber and seal meat are common fare.

Seals are not endangered, so why the aversion to seal dishes in urban Canada?

It seems people are still haunted by images from the 1980s of white-furred seal pups clubbed on blood-soaked ice — images that led to cries of inhumane kill practices.

Seal dish wins applause

Braided seal intestine - Kieran Oudshoorn - CBC
A braided seal intestine is bagged for later at a Iqaluit Hunters and Trappers Association country food feast where eight seals were butchered and distributed free to 100 Nunavut residents. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

These days, the seal slaughter is considered to be as humane as any food-source animal. Seals are shot and ensured to be dead. And Canada now requires mandatory training for sealers to ensure the hunt is humane.

"We welcomed the news today that the popular Vancouver restaurant Edible Canada will be offering its own culinary take on East Coast seal meat in a new dish they call seal pappardelle," said the Canadian Sealers Association.

A handful of Canadian restaurants now serve seal meat in Quebec and along the East Coast.

The kill

Still, others continue to the fight seal harvest.

Seal pup and mother - Jonathan Hayward - Canadian Press
A young harp seal (front) and its mother make their way along the ice off the coast of Cape Breton, N.S. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Anti-sealing advocates claim 66,800 seal pups died in 2016 — too many, they say.

They were furious when then-Canadian Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo wore a seal skin tie when he shook U.S. President Barack Obama's hand.

But there are questions for those who decry seal meat and other Indigenous country foods.

Sealers say kill numbers are overblown — and seals decimate cod stocks.

Have some 'cultural humility'

In a world searching for sustainable, ethical, high-protein food sources, why are Canadians squeamish about fare from our own backyard?

Steaming seal stew - Sonny Abel-Facebook
Steaming seal meat stew is served up in Newfoundland where the meat in broth is common comfort food. (Sonny Abel/Facebook)

"Honestly we eat what we know. We like to eat the things we grew up with," said Nunavut's former territorial nutritionist, Jennifer Wakegijig, who urges "cultural humility" around food.

Sure seal pups are cute, but — unless you are vegetarian — so are cows.

And a seal is not any more intelligent than an octopus, common in sushi.

And Wakegijig points out while Arctic fare features innards, so do many other traditional dishes such as Haggis and andouillette sausages.

While Wakegijig has long advocated for Arctic people to eat their traditional foods, she admits, some gross her out too.

Harp seal pup - Paul Darrow - reuters
A young harp seal rests on the ice off the coast of Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia, March 31, 2008. Heavy pack ice has made it difficult for sealers to reach the young seals. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

But she applauds efforts to diversify people's palates, and points out finding local sources of protein increases food security for everybody in Canada.

"I don't know how we pick and choose which animals we find socially acceptable to use as food. The idea of just not eating seals or any food on the basis that it's cute doesn't make any sense," said Wakegijig.

Why not seal?

Seal meat, described by some as moose-crossed tuna or veal of the sea, can be dried, stewed, pan-seared or made into sausage.

Beef contains a lot more fat and can't match flippers for nutrition.

Game meats are high in protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

Seal flesh nutrients

Seal meat is lean with less than two per cent fat, much lower than 12 to 27 per cent fat in other store-bought meats.

It's also rich in iron, zinc, vitamins A, D, B and C.

Seal products

The skin can be used for waterproof, biodegradable clothing such as boots, mittens and hats.

And while animal rights groups protest seal products, the world is buying.

Between 2005 and 2014 Canada exported $66.6 million worth of seal products to 48 countries.

Seal meat and rice - Wilbir Brown-Facebook
This plate of seal meat and rice was the snack of choice for the football game in Sitka, Alaska. (Wilbir Brown/Facebook)

Canadian officials see the harvest as sustainable, and many northern Canadians consider seal comfort food.

It's a free food source for hunters in a tough economy, and offers much better nutrition than what you can often buy at Arctic stores.

Inuit tradition

Inuit seal hunters have long fought groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Harpseals.org, saying a ban on the seal hunt is a ban on their lifestyle.

Iqaluit film maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, director of the documentary Angry Inuk, applauded Vancouver's Edible Canada for the new menu.

Frozen seal flesh - Delilah Gover-Delange-Facebook
Frozen seal meat is currency in rural communities where game is canned, frozen and shared among family and friends. (Delilah Gover-Delange/Facebook)

"I'm happy to see it. I think it's brave ... in the face of such unreasonable attacks. Doing anything about seals that doesn't condemn us seal hunters is a risk. I think it's great to encourage more consumption of the meat. It's so good for you and so tasty," said the seal hunt advocate.

Worth the risk?

Chef Eric Pateman knew his move to add seal to the menu came with a political risk.

"I'm scared out of my mind in terms of any negative feedback on this — it certainly comes with its controversy but it is certainly part of Canada's history and Canada's food history," he said.

And, he says, he's taken risks before and has been surprised by people's reaction. A few years ago he added "rocky mountain oysters" as an appetizer and couldn't keep enough sheep testicles in stock.


Letter: Let’s stick to the facts about the seal hunt

Jan. 9, 2017

Sealing vessel looking for seals - IFAW
A sealing vessel moves along the edge of an icefield in the Gulf of St. Lawrence searching for animals to hunt in this file photo taken from a helicopter chartered by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

It is unfortunate that in his Dec. 31st letter to the editor, “Misinformation about the seal hunt abounds,” retired Capt. Wilfred Bartlett has chosen to characterize those trying to open a respectful dialogue on the commercial seal hunt in this province as “termites” and “bleeding hearts.”

While the captain has a right to his opinion, such inflammatory and emotional language does nothing to further a rational discussion on this issue, which has great significance, if not importance, for most Newfoundlanders.
There was a time when the seal hunt was an economically important industry in this province, and eating seal was a matter of survival, but it is misleading to suggest that this is the case today.

Bartlett’s statement that the harp seal herd is “exploding” is not backed by any science. According to DFO, the population is currently at about 7.4 million — certainly not the highest population that has existed — and has remained stable for most of the past decade, even though there has been a drastic decline in the number of seals being hunted during this period.

Further, the claim that “we need to have a seal hunt to restore the balance of nature” is a complete myth. Harp seals are a native species, they do not need to be “kept in check” — nor can they be. It is our own overfishing and mismanagement that needs to be kept in check. Some scientists (whom Bartlett would also likely consider “bleeding hearts”) have had the courage to suggest that fisheries should be managed such that stocks remain abundant enough to provide for the whales, seals and seabirds that depend on prey species for survival.
Bartlett claims that “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.” If this were true, why do DFO numbers state otherwise? If I am being untruthful, then DFO is just as guilty. The numbers reflect waste, and a substantial amount. This is clearly a hunt for fur. There is no justification in killing an innocent animal to feed the bottom of the ocean.

As Newfoundlanders, we are proud of our heritage and traditions and we are quick to band together and condemn those who are critical of us in any way. But times change, and some traditions are worth re-examining. In light of the current economic situation in this province, does it make sense to be spending millions in government funds in support for the sealing industry? This is a question for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and one that needs to be discussed based on facts and science, not emotional rhetoric, myth, and name-calling.

Renee Gosse
St. John’s



Quebec Rightfully Rejects Proposed Seal Slaughter Disguised As 'Research'

By Sheryl Fink, IFAW
Jan. 5, 2017

A small victory for common sense and wildlife protection is being celebrated as the province of Quebec, Canada, rejected a proposal to slaughter 1,200 grey seals in Brion Island Nature Reserve under the pretext of "scientific research."

Grey seal - T. Nakamura - Volvox - via Getty Images

Sealers have reportedly been openly, and illegally, poaching grey seals on Brion Island for at least three years without repercussion. The area, which has been a protected ecological reserve since 1984, has become an important nursery for grey seals to give birth and nurse their pups. Having discovered -- not surprisingly --that a protected area is a remarkably good place to find large numbers of the animals they wish to kill, sealers have been lobbying for an opening of a commercial hunt.

Thankfully, a new proposal for lethal research "to analyze the health of the grey seal population" on Brion Island was been rejected by Quebec's fisheries and environment ministries. The proposal was put forth by Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, a wildlife veterinarian and pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College who has previously conducted research on how to kill seals.

In addition to analyzing the carcasses of the animals, Daoust and his research team wanted to determine "if the meat and oil are of high enough quality to be sold commercially, should the seal hunt ever be reopened." This is an unusual rationale, since there currently exists a commercial hunt for grey seals in Atlantic Canada, with a quota of 60,000 animals, and Canada has been aggressively trying to market grey seal products for decades with virtually no success.

Grey seal

If there are now concerns that the meat and oil of these animals are of poor quality and inadequate for consumption, this has serious implications for the commercial hunting of all grey seals -- not just those found on Brion Island. The researchers then proposed to turn over the carcasses to the sealing industry, who would process -- and sell -- the skins, fat and meat.

Leaving aside the fact that there are few markets for grey seal products, this type of "research" seems to bear a strong resemblance to Japan's so-called "scientific whaling" program. Japan slaughtered 333 minke whales in the Antarctic last year under a scheme designed to skirt international rules to protect whales. Critics of Japan's controversial whaling activities have long maintained that Japanese whale research is little more than a cover for commercial hunting, and that non-lethal methods could be instead used.

Proposing a research project under the guise of science to provide cover for an ongoing illegal slaughter of wildlife in a protected area and allow individuals to profit financially from it -- and then pretending that this has anything to do with "sustainable development" -- is a joke. We do not need to kill animals to study their health.

We commend Quebec's Ministry of Fisheries and Environment for seeing this ploy for what it really is: an attempt to open a commercial slaughter for seals in a protected area under the guise of "scientific research," and in the process legitimizing the illegal poaching of wildlife in a nature reserve.

Sadly, those in favour of the seal slaughter say they plan to fight the decision, and are now looking for another way to justify culling seals in this protected area. We strongly encourage the Province of Quebec to stop turning a blind eye to illegal hunting, and to crack down on the poaching of seals in Brion Island nature reserve. Protected areas are necessary sanctuaries for seals and other wildlife. They should not be abused as 'easy pickings' for those who wish to slaughter wildlife for profit.


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