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Friday, March 27, 2009

Sealing the Fate of the Atlantic Seal Harvest

The following appeared in yesterday's Chronicle Herald and presents a clear case for why the anti-sealing movement and the planned EU ban on seal products is so ludicrous.

Unfortunately none of that matters. Regardless of what the article says about the federal government's position, because of a lack of any real action on their part, the anti-sealing movement is succeeding in its misguided quest. An EU ban will soon be going ahead.

Seals, science, sentimentality and 'brutality'
Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
Thu. Mar 26 - 6:18 AM

The mock baton attack on a stuffed seal during an anti-sealing protest in Halifax on March 14 by a Metro Transit bus driver was a bit bizarre, and not professional behaviour for someone in his position while on duty, but I can empathize that the relentless and obnoxious stridency of anti-sealing activists is provocative incitement to extraordinary expressions of frustration.

I think many Atlantic Canadians, upon hearing of this incident, might join me in pumping a fist in the air with the sentiment, "Yes!"

As for demands that the man be charged by police for expressing his opinion, get a grip! He didn’t hurt anyone, not even the stuffed seal, damage anyone’s property, and in the past, anti-sealing groups themselves have staged much more graphic mock seal clubbings, complete with fake blood, in attempting to dramatize their point.

I was pleased to learn that the federal government thumbed its nose at anti-sealing factions, and a European Parliament committee recently voting to recommend a bill that would ban imports of seal products to the European Union, with Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last Friday increasing the allowable harvest quota for this year’s East Coast hunt by 55,000 to 338,200 seals, from last year’s 283,200, based not on emotionalism, but rather "the advice of scientists to ensure the seal population is maintained."

Sentimentality, in the form of sappy animal rights ideology, is all the anti-seal hunting movement and money machine are based on, with no scientific fact or conservation reality supporting their contentions that seals are either endangered or treated less humanely than livestock killed in slaughterhouses to stock supermarket shelves.

As the European Commission’s own ambassador to Canada, Dorian Prince, observed during an official visit to New Brunswick last year: "Most people in Europe live in urban centres far removed from hunting, whether in Newfoundland and Labrador, Russia, Greenland or Finland ... As we get further removed from the realities of agriculture and hunting and so on, we get more sentimental."

In the rational world, at least two compelling arguments support seal hunting in Atlantic Canada:

1) Seals are an abundant, valuable, and renewable resource in a fishery beleaguered by declining stocks of many traditional catch species.

When whitecoat seal hunting was terminated 22 years ago, there were an estimated two million seals off Canada’s east coast. Today, the federal Fisheries Department estimates those harp, grey and hooded seal herds number about 6.4 million animals.

2) Abundance of seals is not coincidental to stock declines of other species, and the seal population must be diminished if there is to be any hope of saving some currently threatened fish species.

The marine ecological balance is indisputably out of whack, but allowing one species whose natural predators (eg: sharks) no longer exist in numbers sufficient to sustain a healthy balance to proliferate unchecked is not going to improve things.

Aside from sentimental idiocy fostered by the cuteness of whitecoat seal pups (which, as noted, haven’t been hunted in Canada since 1987), there is no rational reason not to hunt seals, and bringing the seal population down from its current record levels is ecologically beneficial. Besides predation of vulnerable and valuable fish stocks, seals also damage fishing gear and are an incubator for worms that infest other species.

Of course, none of these logical conclusions will ever convince the fanatical animal rights zealots of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who routinely misrepresent facts, disseminate half-truths, use imagery calculated to press emotional buttons, and outright lies to gull well-meaning but ill-informed folks into their web of deceit and ideological extremism, diverting energy, attention and resources away from legitimate ecological and conservation issues toward what is essentially an animal rights hobby-horse and powerful lever for prying money out of the pockets of well-meaning but ill-informed urbanites.

According to Ottawa, sealing is an important source of employment for about 12,000 Canadians, and while fashion is of course one important market for seal products, just as it is for leather goods made from cowhide, seal meat is also a valuable source of food protein, and one of the richest and most bio-available sources of marine Omega-3 fatty acids for nutritional supplementation.

Seal oil supplements are 20 to 25 per cent richer in Omega-3 polyunsaturates, including docosapentaenoicacid (DPA), which is minimal to non-existent in fish oils.

Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung once observed that "Sentimentality is a superstructure covering brutality."

"Brutality" is a term the anti-sealing crowd like to fling at hunters, but arguably real brutality characterizes those who would sacrifice the livelihoods and well-being of 12,000 sealers, their families and communities, by banning the harvest of a renewable resource currently experiencing a population explosion to the tune of 12 per cent annually.

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