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Please Hug Me,Don't Club Me: Canadas Shameful Seal Slaughter
It’s hard to believe that many Canadians are still not aware of the Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt. Each and every year, Canadians are responsible for the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals our world has ever seen. This cruel and unethical hunt takes place at Canada’s East Coast in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well as the Front. Almost all of those who participate in this inhumane massacre of innocent animals are Newfoundland fishermen who become sealers in order to earn extra bucks during the off season for fishing. On average, only a very small fraction of a fishermen’s annual income comes from sealing. Unlike other hunts that occur worldwide, the Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt is anything but humane and ethical. Throughout these past three years alone, over one million seals have been murdered for no other legitimate reason other than for the use of their fur.
Harp seals are known for their soft, white fur and each year, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans allow 975,000 of harp seals to be killed primarily for this very reason. Similar to all fur hunts, the animal’s pelt is used for high end fashion garments. Seal fur is a luxury and is often used by high class designers such as Gucci and Prada. The Canadian government deducts $2.00 for every bullet that is found in the seal pelt. To avoid this penalty, sealers resort to practising more demonstrably cruel methods of killing that will not damage the pelt. The most common form is clubbing where the sealer would hit the seal with a blow to the head, often multiple times to the point of unconsciousness. In comparison to other forms of killing, clubbing is the most humane for the sole reason that the seal would not have to suffer for long. Often times, sealers shoot from far away in boats and only use one bullet which results in the seal having to suffer in agony for a very long period of time. Commonly, seals that get shot accidently fall into the ice where they then drown to death, yet fishermen don’t even bother to go and recover the carcass or suffering seal, but instead, they ignore it and move on to the next seal. This in itself represents the high immorality that takes place during the Commercial Seal Hunt. To make matters worse, getting clubbed or shot to death are not the worse forms of killing that are being practised. A recent study conducted by veterinarians reported that in 42% of the cases that they studied, seals were almost always skinned alive while still fully conscious. 98% of the seals who are killed, whether they are shot, clubbed, or skinned alive are young seal pups ranging from the age of 2 weeks to 3 months in age.
Along with the already hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals that are being killed, 30, 000 adult hood seals are also allowed to be slaughtered every year. Despite this already horrifically large amount of seals, more often than not, sealers go over the quota and kill more seals than are legally allowed. Luckily for these sealers, there are no consequences in doing so.
Having sealers in the East Coast of Canada blindly and barbarically slaughter these animals may not be a concern to some, but if the hunt continues, there would be many consequences. If the hunt continues at its current rate, all life matter existing in the ocean, will be in danger. Recent evidence shows that the mass killing of seals has been linked to bacterial infestation of the ocean floor. This bacteria leads to a condition called hypoxia, in which patches of the ocean lose all the dissolved oxygen which is necessary to sustain all fish of any kind. In addition, there have been no recent studies done in the past decade in regards to the seal population which is highly dangerous for the species’ existence. This may greatly influence the government to recklessly manage the seal hunt, which the government has been known to do in the past. In the 1970s, the seal hunt had caused the population of harp seals to drop to 1.8 million. Though this may seem like a high number, this does not compare to the 24 million seals that once existed when the first European explorers first reached the East Coast of Canada.
Although the Canadian government attempts to claim that the Commercial Seal Hunt is necessary in order to control the seal population which has now been claimed to be overpopulated, it is in fact not true. The harp seals habitat is supposed to span the distance between Canada and Greenland, which would create a population somewhere in the many millions. Contrary to what the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and sealers may want the public to believe, the seal hunt and all the seals’ pointless deaths, are not at all necessary or essential by any means. In addition to other multiple myths, the seal hunt is not at all economically important and the Inuit peoples’ livelihood does not in fact depend on the commercial seal hunt.
In regards to the claim that the seal is economically important, less than 1% of Newfoundland’s economy, (the Canadian province’s economy that takes almost all of the participation in the commercial seal hunt) is derived from the seal. An option that the Canadian federal government could easily discontinue the seal hunt is by employing a government buy-out. With this system, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will buy back the sealing licences from the Newfoundland fishermen. By doing this, the fishermen will not lose the additional income that comes from the seal hunt. This is what happened when the commercial whale hunt had ended. When asked about the government buyout, the seniors of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made it clear that they would only end the hunt once the sealers and fishermen request for it to be ended.
In relation to the claim that the Inuit and natives profit from the commercial seal hunt, there are actually no Inuit people who are involved in the hunting of harp and hood seals. Instead, the 2004 Annual Report of the North American Marine Mammal Commission states that the Inuit people target ring and bearded seals as a source of dog food. The only reason why the Inuit leaders support the commercial sea hunt is because they see the harp seal as competition for the ringed and bearded seals that they want. The Canadian Government of Fisheries and Oceans try and link the native community to the seal hunt as a way of pushing the general public’s knowledge away from what’s happening in the East Coast.
Yet in the midst of the lies that the government is feeding the general public and the cruelty that the seals are facing, there is hope for the end of this cruel seal hunt. Recently on March 9th 2010, Ontario senate Marc Hub re-introduced legislation to amend The Fisheries Act, which will effectively end the commercial seal hunt in Canada and at the same time respect treaty obligations and the rights of the Canadian aboriginal people. Actions from high government officials such as Marc Hub are all due to the general publics many letters, protests, and concern regarding the commercial seal hunt. In a matter of one month since the bill was introduced, 600 messages have been sent to Hub in order to support and thank him. Unfortunately, after the bill was seconded by Conservative Senator Lowell Murray, it did not receive enough votes to allow the bill to be debated.
In spite of this loss, the Senior Researcher from IFAW Sheryl Fink says "We are thrilled that Senator Hub remains true to this cause and continue to show leadership and courage in speaking out on behalf of the majority of Canadians on this important issue". IFAW stands for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and is a non-governmental organization that rejects that the interests of humans and animals are separate. This organization gathers support form 1.2 million people worldwide, which is a big increase from the small group of concerned local citizens when they started forty years ago. IFAW started to try and band the massive and brutal commercial hunt, but over the years has expanded to try and help many different types of species throughout the world.
With enough support of strong organizations such as IFAW and of course, PETA, one can only hope that the seal hunt will one day be banned, which would ultimately, be the best result. Yet if that will not happen, I strongly believe that new law regarding the seal hunt should begin to be enforced, which will include a lower quota of seals to be killed in an ethical, humane way. If sealers go beyond the quota or continue to kill seals in the same ways as before, they should be heavily charged or thrown in jail.
All animals have the right to live and die the way as nature intended it. Although humans depend on animals to survive, it does not mean we that we should not take extra efforts in caring for our earth and all the creatures that call earth home