The Value of Cute: Seal Clubbing

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In the arctic regions of the world, killing seals by clubbing them has been a tradition for many generations. Some argue in defense of the practice of seal clubbing. One argument is that the clubbing is done in a humane way, such as the report from the CVMA by Bollinger and Campbell which says that 98.2 percent of the seals died upon impact from the hakapiks used to crush their skulls. It has also been said that the number of cod has been threatened by the seals, so in a way, clubbing seals protects the fishing industry. However, a large number of people protest against the practice of clubbing seals. The emotionally provoking image of a seal being struck brutally makes many react in horror and question the assurances of pro-clubbers. For example, how do we know for sure that the hakapik is being used properly? That seal could be suffering an inhumane and agonizing death as the hakapik must be utilized over and over again until the seal finally passes away. Others protest that the seals are being killed for no reason other than for their fur and that the fishing industry is unaffected by seal activity.
All of these are very good points, but one other compelling reason is that [baby] seals are cute. With their large, black, limpid eyes and endearing helplessness, who would not be attracted to them? The idea of one of these adorable, innocent creatures being struck with a pick, or being shot, makes hearts ache with protest. “Why the seals? What have they ever done?” a passerby would say. Now, one might also see a poster about threatened great white sharks. This would not spark as much emotion, unless a particularly horrifying picture was also included. One other neglected creature would be the American burying beetle. I doubt many even know what this insect is. It is a carrion bug, eating carcasses of dead animals and burrowing underground, and has disappeared from many areas.
Neither of these animals is endearing and they are simply not cute. There is an undeniable connection to cuteness and defense. The seals, which are cute by any human standard, are readily defended by the masses. Many lose interest at the defense of sharks and even more leave at cries to restore the American burying beetle. The cute factor garners a lot of public attention. The media can so easily and willingly defend an irresistible little pup. The shark is often criticized for his unsightly jaws and inability to distinguish humans on a surfboard from seals. The beetle is practically nonexistent. I am not saying I support seal clubbing, or that I condemn it. What I am saying is, if you bother to support the seals, why not support all animals. Should you ignore the humphead wrasse because of his ugly face? I would think not! So please, when you think of that poor seal, think too of his watery companions the shark and the wrasse, and when the majestic tiger drops in numbers, pray also for his eco-friendly buddy the burrowing beetle.





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