Thursday, April 19, 2007

Seal hunt debate time again

It's that time of year again when opponents and supporters alike weigh in on the annual seal cull issue here in Canada. So, far be it from me to buck the trend.
This year it is being brought into focus by unusual weather conditions.
First, warm conditions in the Gulf of St Lawrence resulted in very poor ice conditions during the seal birth season, and there were predictions that the vast majority (apparently upto 90%, according even to government sources) of this year's seal pups may have perished, even without the help of an army of Newfies with clubs, guns and hooks. The quota of allowed kills was reduced this year to 270,000 from last year's 325,000, supposedly to accommodate this year's expected lower survival rate.
Then, in the last few days, the weather turned the other way, and the seal hunters' boats are being trapped, food is running low and the boats in danger of being crushed by the encroaching ice. This is presumably not great news for the seals either, although I haven't read this (no seals were available for comment).
My own personal opinions are probably pretty clear by now, although frankly I could do without the prima donnas of the activist movement, the Paul McCartneys and Brigitte Bardots, who trade on the emotional appeal of those cute little big-eyed pups, and appear to oppose the hunt mainly on sentimental grounds.
In the vanguard of the anti-hunt movement is probably the venerable International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who have been on the job since the sixties, and were instrumental in bring abut the ban on white-coat seal products, among others successes. Their images from the front (men with steel hooks standing over defenceless baby seals, trails of blood in the snow, etc) are well known worldwide. Their Q&A sheet seems a pretty definitve document to me.
Pro-hunt information is harder to find, and mainly seems to be generated by governments and various sealers' associations. The best I can come up with is maybe the Fisheries and Oceans Canada' Myths and Realities sheet (although see the Humane Society of the United States rebuttal of the same).
In my mind, it is reasonably clear to me that the commercial seal hunt (as opposed to Inuit subsistence hunting) is not as humane as the government makes out, not an essential element of Newfoundland's GDP or the incomes of individual fisherman, not sustainable in the current numbers (even government figures suggest that), not necessary to safeguard fish stocks (they are gone, man - get used to it!), and not even economically viable (given that it is actually subsidized by at least two levels of government).
Plus they're cute little critters. Time to call it a day, guys.

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