As the global media have reported, Canada will allow the deaths of about 320,000 seals this year.
As this year’s hunt began, a group of observers from Sea Shepherd and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) approached an area where hunters were working at the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Since these events, and after officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans arrested 11 protesters for allegedly violating regulations that prohibit protesters from getting too close to the hunt without permits, advocates have sent numerous alerts asking for calls to a local police sergeant and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the issue of getting the workers arrested.
Seal protection campaign: Some background
Some boycott proponents, before arriving as welfare observers at the scene of the hunt, displayed unflattering photos and highly critical commentary about the workers who do the killing, although these workers are subsidized to do it by the Canadian government.
Legal issues: Some basics
Canadians must unequivocally
oppose the hunt to get meaningful results from their government. To date,
international welfare groups have complained that the hunt falls short of
humane standards, and undertaken legal action to obtain permits to view the
hunt from the same Department that issues permits to hunters. Thus, protest
has simply become a component of the annual seal hunt.
A. It’s unlikely that workers are criminally accountable for “wilful” cruelty when they are rushing to kill tens of thousands of seals in about a month’s time -- exactly what the government permits them to do.
Q. Aren’t hunters violating the Marine Mammal Regulations, recently clarified so that hunters must poke seals’ eyes to ensure they’re dead before skinning them?
A. Yes, but again, that’s no surprise. The hunt is mass production. In 1998, the International Fund for Animal Welfare commented on the proposed amendments to the Regulations. IFAW’s submission focused on “sustainability,” opining that “the number of animals killed is one of the most serious management questions regarding the commercial seal hunt,” asked that “sealers pass a marksmanship test every two years,” and called for a larger regulatory enforcement budget. On the need for a “clearer requirement for the blinking eye reflex test to be done before bleeding or skinning,” IFAW wrote:
We support this proposal. It must be clear that once a seal has been struck, sealers must promptly confirm the animal’s death by administering the blinking eye reflex test before skinning or bleeding or otherwise cutting open the seal. It goes without saying that by ensuring that the seal is dead before moving to skin or bleed the animal, suffering will be limited.
Before this season’s hunt, IFAW filmed over 600 welfare violations. Enough is enough.
The world community should oppose the Canadian seal hunt as a matter of morality. Welfare groups press year after year for rules that are meaningless in actual quota circumstances, blame hunters for failing to meet them, then express shock that the hunters would chase off observers.
Respect marine life, and Newfoundland’s human residents. End the hunt.
A holistic view of activism does not portray people struggling economically as demons. Activism works when workers --- whether they be seal hunters or employees in a chicken or fish processing plant, in any town throughout the continent -- are invested in change, and together we confront those who profit from objectionable acts. Thus, rather than insisting that the Canadian authorities “arrest sealers” the activism must be directed at the government, and the corporate power it serves.
The government makes excuses; it’s in the
position to stop. Before Europeans settled the North American coast there
were, according to the Green Party of Canada, some “24 million harp seals
living in balance with so many fish that their abundance could impede the
passage of ships.” Today, after decades of hunting, less than 5 million harp
seals remain, and Canadian authorities appear to be on the verge of
announcing a five-year plan which could involve the slaughter of more than a
million animals. (“Largest Seal Cull in Half a Century Reaches Bloody
Climax,” The Observer, 27 Mar. 2005).
Seal advocates in Denmark, Germany, France, Greenland, China, South Korea -- and especially Norway, a major redistribution point for seal fur -- must insist that these governments put a permanent stop to their fur trading.
And we ask people throughout the world -- especially Canadians -- to insist that the representatives of the Canadian people stop the hunt subsidies immediately. Use the funds to build a real economic foundation for Newfoundlanders. Canada banned whale killing, and the economy adjusted. It’s long past time to end the seal hunt. Respect marine life, and Newfoundland’s human residents.
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