The seal deal

Judging by the reaction to Tuesday’s pig post, today’s entry should really get y’all worked up … and I sincerely hope it does.

Friday, March 28 begins the season when hundreds of thousands of Harp Seal pups — many only 12 to 15 days old — will be brutally clubbed to death in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Newfoundland during the annual Canadian Seal Hunt; the ice will run red with blood in the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth. The main method of killing seals is with a hakapik, a heavy wooden club with a hammer head and metal hook on the end. The use of guns is also allowed, but the hakapik is preferred because the seal can be killed without damage to its pelt. The hammer head is used to crush the skull, while the hook is used to move the carcass. Because time is of the essence, hunters attempt to kill and skin as many animals in as short a time as possible, resulting in many seals being wounded but managing to escape back into the water where they die a slow and painful death, or often being skinned while still alive.

Even though this cruelty has been condemned world-wide for years by many animal rights organizations including the Humane Society, the Canadian government continues to staunchly defend the barbaric practice largely for economic reasons. But there is much skepticism regarding these claims. “The seal hunt provides very low economic returns for Canada, Newfoundland and individual sealers,” reports the Humane Society. “In light of the negative impact the seal hunt has on Canada’s international reputation, its continuation cannot be justified on economic grounds.”

This year’s slaughter has had a new and alarming additional development: the Canadian government has denied journalists and animal rights activists permits to observe and document the hunt tomorrow morning, even though observation of the seal hunt is a right guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Read Wayne Pacelle’s blog post for more information.

I’ve had to think long hard about this in light of my previous post, and to be honest, it’s been a bit troubling for me; am I a hypocrite to be so strongly opposed to the slaughter of baby seals in Canada, while at the same time being blasé about killing baby pigs in Texas? After all, the seal hunters would probably cite some of the same reasons for their actions as I did in my recent post about the pigs: they could argue that the seals are overpopulated and they’re just keeping their numbers under control, or that the seals are a nuisance and do much economic damage by decimating crops — codfish — that are normally harvested for human consumption, or (correctly) claim that the hunt is legal and protected by the government. So what’s the difference? Is it because seals are cute, furry and lovable while hogs are ugly, hairy, and smelly? Is it because my rural relatives have been personally affected by feral hogs, while I don’t know anyone directly involved with seals? Is it because I’ve eaten pork products all my life (sorry, veggers) while I would never — ever — consume seal meat? I’m not sure, but I am cognizant of the fact that this double standard doesn’t leave me on very solid moral ground, and anyone reading this is fully justified to call me on it.

Nevertheless, I am still horrified about the carnage that will be taking place on Friday, and have added my signature to a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister at stopthesealhunt.org. I urge you to do so too, or if you feel so inclined, join the boycott of Canadian seafood and other products.

Because this little guy needs your help.


Update 3/30/08 – Hunt Turns Tragic

Three sealers have died and one other is missing and presumed drowned after their fishing vessel capsized while being towed through rough ice by the Canadian Coast Guard on Saturday. The accident occurred off Cape Breton NS while the boat was on its way to cull seal herds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Several hours later, seven more sealers had to be rescued by helicopter when their boat began taking on water and sank. The incidents prompted a fresh wave of appeals from conservationists for Canada to call off its annual seal hunt once and for all.

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