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Friday, May 08, 2009

The Seal Hunt - An Environmentalists Perspective

In no way would I ever try to equate the current seal hunt ban to the terrors of the Holocaust but in some ways the words of a well known poem by Martin Niemoeller seem appropriate in the current context.

With a pending ban on seal products in the EU, can it be long before the industry is on death's door? Then, who will be next? What industry will serve as the next target for activist groups once the revenue generated from anti-seal hunt supporters has dried up and the cause itself is no longer a factor?

In the immortal words of Mr. Niemoeller:


When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

Any politician who is concerned about the future of the cattle, pork, poultry or fishing industries had better take note of what has happened and any who represent districts or regions where logging, mining or oil and gas developments exist had better be careful where they stand on the sealing issue.

Once the animal rights activists have effectively destroyed the sealing industry they will have lost their prime source of revenue and reason for existence. Do you think they'll just stop being activists?

More likely they will, coming off this triumph, begin searching for the next cause to fight for. Your region's industry and your people's way of life may be next.

With the recently approved EU ban on Canadian seal products capturing headlines across the Country and with anti-Newfoundland and Labrador columnists like the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente callously recommending that displaced sealers simply move on and buy themselves some laptops, I thought it timely to re-publish an article from two years ago that speaks to this very subject.

The article was written by a member of the environmental and animal welfare community (note I refer to him as being involved with "animal welfare" not "animal rights", there is a big difference).

I believe this article cuts through lot of the myths and misperceptions that those living outside of Atlantic Canada often accept far too readily. It also highlights the sad reality that the anti-sealing movement is itself far more harmful to the protection of our planet than any sealer could ever be.

Cuter than cod
By Terry Glavin
March 7, 2007
Re-published on Web Talk with the kind permission of the author

I saw something the other day that made me sick to my stomach. It was in the February edition of The Grocer, a British retail-food magazine.

There was an article about a campaign that a group called Respect for Animals is waging to convince consumers to boycott Canadian seafood products. The magazine also carried two huge advertisements from the same outfit.

One of the ads consisted of a photograph of a masked man on an ice floe, and a seal lying prone at his feet. The man was brandishing a club with a spike on the end of it. The words "You Can Stop This" were superimposed upon the picture. The other advertisement proclaimed, "Boycott Canadian Seafood and Save the Seals," with a picture of a can of Canadian salmon.

The Canadian fishing industry exports more than $100 million worth of products into Britain every year. The point of the campaign is to squeeze those sales until the industry begs our government to end the seal hunt.

Here's what makes me sick.

The Newfoundland seal hunt is transparently and demonstrably sustainable and humane.

There are roughly half a million people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and nearly six million harp seals, which is almost three times as many seals as when I was a kid.

Free range seals

Roughly 6,000 fishermen, mostly Newfoundlanders, but some are from Quebec and the Maritimes, take slightly more than 300,000 harp seals annually. The fishermen share more than $16 million from the hunt at a critical time of year when there's little in the way of fishing income to be had.

The seals are harvested for their pelts and their fat, for a range of products, mostly for clothing and for Omega-3 vitamins. The killing is as about as clean as anything you're likely to find in an abattoir.

Seals don't spend their lives cooped up in paddocks or feedlots. They live free, and in all but the rarest cases, the ones that die at the hands of a swiler (a sealer) die instantly.

The hakapik (a spiked club) is an effective instrument. Even so, most seals are first shot with rifles.

The killing of nursing whitecoats was banned 20 years ago.

Exploiting empathy

Here's one of those obligatory disclosures: over the years, several environmental organizations -- the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, etc. -- have subsidized my preoccupation with things that move in the water by having me do research projects for them and so on.

With that out of the way, I can now say, if it isn't obvious already, that it's the seal hunt's opponents who turn my stomach.

It's not just that anti-hunt crusades like this are especially foul in the way they dishonestly misrepresent facts. It's also that they dishonestly manipulate one of the most redeeming traits the human species has inherited from hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection and cultural evolution -- our capacity to expand the embrace of our empathy to include other forms of life.

But far worse than all that, boycott campaigns like this muddy the important distinction between sustainability and sentiment, and between broadly co-ordinated acts of social responsibility and mere lifestyle choices.

When we fail to make these distinctions we undermine everything worthwhile that environmentalism has accomplished since it emerged in the early 1970s.

As citizens and consumers in free societies, we are burdened with the duty to make important decisions at the ballot box, in the work we do, and also in the marketplace. Boycotting Canadian seafood to try and stop the seal hunt is the consumer-choice equivalent of deciding to buy a tie-died shirt, move into a Volkswagen van and subsist solely on lentils and tofu.

Serious stakes

Just as the excesses of postmodernist relativism have enfeebled the left over the past quarter-century or so, a corrosive strain of fact-distorting, science-hating, Gaia-bothering obscurantism has enfeebled environmentalism.

It was there from the beginning, and it persists most noticeably in animal-rights crusades.

It is the environmentalist equivalent of anti-evolution, rapture-seeking Christian zealotry. It has to be attacked wherever it rears its head. There's too much at stake to pretend we can be innocent bystanders here.

This is a fight we all have to join. Here's why

The last time the planet was in the throes of an extinction spasm this cataclysmic was when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. One in every four mammal species, one in eight bird species, one in nine plants, a third of all amphibians and half of all the surveyed fish species on earth are threatened with extinction.

When Greenpeace was born in Vancouver in 1971, the single greatest cause of species extinction was understood to be habitat loss. Now, the greatest threat to biological diversity is global warming.

The last time the atmosphere was accumulating greenhouse gases this fast was 650,000 years ago. The prospects look exceedingly grim -- broad-scale ecological disruption, crop failure and famine, desertification and the mass dislocation of some of the most heavily-populated regions of the world.

A key reason environmentalists found themselves so ill-prepared to convince the world to take global warming seriously was that their movement had been corrupted by precisely the same trippy sentiment-mongering that has animated the holy war against the Newfoundland seal hunt, which now turns its sights on Canadian fisheries products.

Where was Greenpeace?

When the founders of Greenpeace were being born, back in the 1950s, the world's fishing fleets were taking roughly 40 million tonnes of marine biomass from the world's oceans every year. By the 1980s, it was 80 million tonnes. Then the seas just stopped giving. Fully 90 per cent of all the big fish in the sea -- the tunas, the marlins, the sharks, the swordfish -- are now gone.

Of the many fisheries collapses that have occurred around the world in recent years, it is sadly ironic that the greatest single collapse occurred in the seas around Newfoundland, where the bulk of Canada's Atlantic seal hunt takes place.

The Grand Banks cod fishery was the largest and oldest pelagic fishery in the history of the human experience. The cod were mined from the sea by the same big-boat offshore fleets that had caused such devastation everywhere else. A way of life disappeared, and by the early 1990s, tens of thousands of workers were reduced to welfare.

While all this was happening, what were environmentalists doing on the Newfoundland coast, in the country where Greenpeace was born, at a time when Greenpeace was at the height of its powers? They were out cavorting with rich hippies and snuggling up to harp seal pups on the ice floes. They were meditating cross-legged in the snow and posing for the television cameras and demonizing the good people of Newfoundland, while the seas around them were being emptied of cod.

Rational agreements

When you go looking for the good that environmentalism has accomplished, you'll find it in such covenants as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances, and the Kyoto Accord.

It's in the sustainability provisions of elaborately negotiated efforts such as the Brundtland Commission on the Environment and Development, and the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing.

The toughest global instrument to protect biodiversity is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Fuzzy eco-drivel has already severely damaged CITES by forcing non-threatened species, such as North Atlantic minke whale, onto the CITES appendices. Now, in Germany and Belgium, animal-rights activists and their friends in the European Parliament are attempting to override CITES, and the European Union's own rules, with an outright ban on products from Canada's perfectly abundant harp seal population(Web Talk note: This article before the ban passed its vote in the EU Parliament this week).

Similarly, seal-hunt opponents are dangerously undermining the historic victory that flowed from the Brundtland Commission.

The commission established a commitment to sustainability as the key universal value to guide natural-resource harvesting policies for all the peoples of the world, regardless of their distinct cultural practices and sensibilities. The whole point of sustainability is to ensure that people can exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities that come with sustainably harvesting the natural resources of the ecosystems within which they live.

The harp seal hunt is a living embodiment of that principle. That's why environmentalists should not just give the boycott a pass, or stay neutral, but should actively support and defend the seal hunt.

The one consolation we can take from the recent hullabaloo is that it's faltering.

Last year, when animal-rights activists in the United States boasted that they'd convinced more than 200 restaurants and seafood retailers to boycott Canadian products to protest the hunt, it turned out that only a small minority were doing so. Most of them didn't even know they'd been listed as boycott-compliant.

Also, the European Commission, citing the absence of evidence to support contentions that the hunt is inhumane, has refused, for now, to enforce the European Parliament's proposed ban on seal products. (Web Talk note: the EU later reconsidered and voted for the ban.)

Contested Council

But the consumer boycott campaign that's just begun in Britain is particularly insidious. Its aim is all Canadian fisheries products, and its targets are Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield and other major retail chains that have already made a commitment to eventually carrying only those seafood products that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The MSC standard remains hotly contested by responsible environmentalists, but its coveted "eco-label" holds out the hope of forcing improvements to fisheries-management policies around the world.

In Canada, those improvements are increasingly driven by the fishermen themselves, because they want the MSC label on their product.

British Columbia's halibut fishery was turned down once, and has since re-applied, because groundfish management has significantly improved -- thanks in no small part to halibut fishermen.

Other fishermen are now lobbying federal fisheries officials to improve stock-assessment research to give B.C.'s dogfish fishery a shot at the MSC label. British Columbia's sockeye salmon fisheries have just undergone an arduous certification examination, and a decision is imminent.

If the cuddliness of a particular species harvested in a particular country is allowed to become the factor that determines whether that country's products are considered environmentally acceptable, then everything we won at CITES and in the Brundtland Commission is lost.

If those are the kinds of choices we present to everyone from major retailers down to ordinary seafood consumers, then we'll have wasted all our efforts to marshal consumer power to force the sustainable use of the oceans.

It's long past time for conservationists to make a clean, clear, open and unequivocal break with crystal-gazing animal-rights eccentrics and all their camp followers. For them, the conservation of wild resources was always just a flag of convenience. They're dead ballast, so over the side with them.

On the question of the Atlantic harp seal harvest, there's only one defensible and honest position for a conservation-minded citizen to take.

Support the swilers!!!

Once again Terry - Thank-you for your very enlightening article.

With the EU ban now well on the way toward implementation I believe it's only right to remind those political figures who made the decision, and those who secretly support them within Canada, that the road we are now following is a slippery one indeed.

9 comments:

Ussr said...

The topic that was covered should also include our culture and our heritage, Patriot. Of course Canada has had nothing to do with the loss of our sealing industry. Has Canada ever stood up for our rights before? Has it ever pressed the concerns of our nation?

This should be a warning shot across the bow of our province. How much have we given this country called Canada, yet we keep on giving and we get nothing in return.

I like how these activists always say, why doesn’t Canada stop this hunt and give the fishers something else to do. This coming from a group of people that didn’t get involved with the Cod fishery, as the world raped the greatest natural resource on the planet. Using their ideology, why hasn’t the government stepped in and given the 40,000 thousand people something else to do when they destroyed that industry.

What we are seeing today is the complete destruction of our way of life and our culture. People are leaving the province in droves, the relationship with the federal government could not get any worse, and we are pumping our natural resources out of the province at a record rate. Only Alberta is giving more. Do we really need to follow their example? We tried that once and the only people that didn’t benefit were those that owned the resource.

I just can’t help but wonder were will we be in another 60 years. Can we keep on giving away our natural resources at this rate? Can we afford to stay in this situation with Canada any longer?

I have been away from home now 11 years. I have been waiting and waiting for things to get better, so I can return to my home. When will I be able to return to something better? The days are going by so fast, and nothing seems to change. The more they do change the more they stay the same.

I can only hope that those that have put their faith in these six Liberal MPs, that it somehow paysoff. We have lost our fishery. We have lost ChurchHill falls, and then the government changes the Atlantic accord all by itself. Yet, they say that the government should get those fishers something else to do.

What about getting me something else to do besides cnstantly coming on yourr blog Patriot, and complaining about what Canada hasn’t done. I really don’t know what to say anymore. I feel that im losing everything I am as I watch the out ports go empty and my culture becomes a target to the world.

Canada states that it defends the week and stands up for those that cannot defend themselves. That it supports multiculturalism and diversity. What about my culture.

Am I not as important as the immigrants walking down Young St.I am starting to think that I truly am a second class citizen in my own country.

“Republic Of”

Daniel said...

Who is next, you ask? The recreational hunters who kill for the fun of it; those who chain, cage and force animals to perform for human entertainment; the vivisectionists who torture for "scientific" curiosity and finally those who raise and kill animals because we like the taste of their flesh.

Animals are not resources, they're individuals that deserve to live their lives as nature intended.
There's no such thing as "humane" slaughter. Would we condone what the Nazis did if they did it humanely? Of course not.
You are trying to save your cultural traditions; animal rights activists are trying to save lives, promote compassion and reduce suffering.

If cultural traditions cause suffering and death, then these traditions are wrong and should end. Honour killings, virginal mutilations, slavery and the raping of wives are cultural traditions too in some parts of the world.

Violence is violence, no matter how you choose to justify it and no matter how much money you can make from it.

Animal rights activists won't stop until the violence, oppression and killing of other animals (we're animals too, you know) stops.

In peace,
Dan

Anonymous said...

Do me a favour Dan. Go into your washroom, stand in front of the mirror and open your mouth really, really wide. Can you see your teeth? Look at them carefully and tell me those teeth are the teeth of a herbivore.

Whether you like it or not man is omnivorous. We have evolved to eat meat and I've yet to find a way to do that without killing an animal.

Perhaps you should also focus on trying to get lions to stop killing. What about seals themselves. Those terrible creatures eat so many fish. Perhaps you should try to get them to switch to turnips or carrots.

Your kind makes me sick. Grow up.

Patriot said...

To Dan 8:39 AM,

Are you for real?

I suppose you think you don't impact the environment or harm animals eh? Do you live in a wooden house or apartment? If so then some animal's habitat was party destroyed to give you a warm home.

Do you drive a car or take a bus? Then the gasoline was produced by drilling for oil, perhaps in an area where animals used to roam freely but cannot any longer.

Do you eat farmed vegetables like carrots? What about fruit like apples or oranges? All of those are produced by flattening forestland and creating farms. How many natural habitats were destroyed to create usable farmland and orchards? How many species were driven from them homes and perhaps died for your bowl of rice and beans?

Do you wear clothing but think because none of it is made from animal skin that you are not impacting nature? Think again.

If your clothes is made from man made materials or even natural materials like wool, the factories that produce them produce tonnes of carbon emissions, spew out lethal chemicals and poison the air, rivers and oceans. Those chemicals don't just go away because you want them to. They directly affect fish, bird eggs and yes, even humans.

It's time you tree huggers realized you are not as nice to the animals on this planet as you think you are.

Tell me this Dan. What will you do when the seal population explodes because of a lack of hunting. You better think of something because the herd is growing all the time and when it is unchecked it will eventually eat through its available food supply. Then you will see hundreds of thousands or even millions of seals suffering for weeks on end as slowing starve to death or die of disease.

I guess then someone will be asking sealers to go out and thin the herd to stop the destruction but will they?

Will they go out and undertake a cull when there is no market to sell the products into. Why should the people you and your kind have ruined financially pull your stupid A$$ out of the water by cleaning up the mess you've made?

Dan, I can only say this in one way. There is no sugar coating it. Your kind is totally ignorant of reality.

Anonymous said...

My Fight For Newfoundland /Labrador Freedom


'My fight for Our freedom' the autobiography of Myles Higgons
But perhaps he should have called his book 'When young blood stained the shores'
For human blood for freedom too huge a price to pay
And liberty or freedom define it anyway.

The freedom of expression whatever that might be
To speak our minds on certain things we are not truly free
Look at poor Salman Rushdie his book you may have read
For his satanic verses some people want him dead.

From the point I am about to make you may think I tend to stray
And what has Rushdie got to do with nations freedom you might say
But for freedom of expression there has been a World-wide
fight

And yet fear is a deterrent to a basic human right.

The fight for Newfoundlands/Labradors freedom whatever that might mean
For there is more to freedom than just wear'in it on your sleeve'
In Canada like all Nations there is inequality
Of prejudice and class distinction the World is yet not free.

Our ill fated Quite Revelotion in St Johns of the year two thousand and o'five
And my fight for Newfoundland and Labrador freedom,
the story of Myles to be told
Is living on in history yet do we understand
That there is more to freedom than owning a piece of land

Keep the fight alive brother.

" Republic Of "

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

Just wondering ,you give a pretty good speech on rights, and ending suffering.

If you believe in those rights so strongly may I recommned an organization that fights for those rights you so eagerly enjoy.

http://www.forces.ca

if you want to talk the talk ,why dont you " MAN UP ".

If not shut up until you earn the right to tell me and others that I dont have the right to live in my Province a free preson.And, that I may practise my culture.Or, do you just like to pick on a small population because you feel that they won't fight back.It's easy to see what part of the strait you live on.B'ye

Real Estate in Toronto said...

I don't really understand all the fuss about the seal hunt. It clearly is just another way of the human race to get food and other needs that we require. By the logic of the people that are for the ban we should not harm any animals in the world. But that would probably cause the extinction of the human race, we just need meat. Plus seals are not even endangered species or anything, not saying lets kill them all but it really is one of the few industries where we're not harming the environment that much.

Take care, Elli

Jaret Manuel said...

This is what I have to say about the matter. Great post!

http://jaretmanuel.com/i-propose-a-running-of-the-seals

Devon McDonald said...

By far, the Canadian seal hunt provides a very good income for the animal rights groups. Most of the larger AR groups get the majority of their money protesting the seal hunt.

International Fund for Animal Welfare earned 91 million dollars in 2008.

Humane Society of the United States earned 107 million dollars.

There is more money in protesting the Canadian seal hunt then the sealers themselves earn.