Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


DFO not covering itself in glory in seal hunt mess

Sun. Apr 20, 2008 Silver Donald Cameron

LET ME get this straight. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, aided by the RCMP, boarded and seized the Dutch-registered protest vessel Farley Mowat in order to prevent injury to sealers — just a couple of weeks after DFO drowned four sealers itself in a terrifying display of incompetence.

And the European master and mate of the vessel have been jailed and charged with offences under a set of "marine mammal protection regulations" that were created specifically to stifle dissent by preventing protesters from approaching seals who are in the process of being slaughtered. And all this hits the headlines just as the European Union debates whether to ban seal products from the EU completely. A triumph of Canadian diplomacy.

And the minister, Loyola Hearn, contributes to the calm and rational discussion of the seal hunt by sneering at the internationally-venerated Farley Mowat, who had the effrontery to put up bail money for the jailed officers. Hearn also excoriates Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd Conservation society as "a bunch of money-sucking manipulators."

If money-sucking manipulation is now a crime under the Fisheries Act, perhaps we should send a few fisheries officers to call on The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. Whether or not Mulroney’s skulking encounters with Karlheinz Schreiber were otherwise illegal, there’s not much doubt that they represented "money-sucking manipulation" on an Olympic scale.

But that’s not true of Paul Watson. Say what you will about Paul Watson — and you can say, with some justice, that he’s intransigent, uncompromising, hyperbolic, pugnacious, rash and intemperate — you cannot ascribe cynicism to a man who has spent his whole life charging whaling ships with rubber rafts, getting himself tear-gassed and beaten and jailed, and confronting armed and angry sealers and whalers far out on the cold and lonely sea.

But Hearn, who has spent his entire working life in classrooms and legislatures, says Watson is "gutless." Stunning.

Paul Watson is not a cuddly figure. He doesn’t mind risks, and he is not intimidated by the authorities. If they don’t give him a permit, he goes to the ice without one and takes the consequences. If he has to go to jail, he goes. If the authorities bar him from the ice, he organizes a shipload of others. If they harass his Canadian ship, he registers it in the Netherlands. If they tell him he can’t enter Canadian waters, he stays 13 miles offshore and lets the hunt come to him.

He is utterly devoted to what he’s doing. And his passionate commitment reduces DFO and its successive ministers to gibbering, frothing incoherence.

The truth is that two worlds are colliding every spring at the seal hunt. Loyola Hearn represents the fading world view which holds that human beings somehow rank above all other beings, holding dominion over the living whole and exploiting it without restraint. Watson, a vegan, represents the leading edge of a new world of people who recognize themselves as part of nature, responsible for their stewardship of the natural world, and no more precious than any other species on the planet.

Watson was speaking for that new world when he said that the deaths of the four sealers was a tragedy — but the deaths of 270,000 seals was an even greater tragedy.

The striking outcome of that remark — as I saw it on a CBC News poll — was not that many people were outraged by it, but that perhaps two-thirds of the callers agreed with him.

When I first met Watson, I’m quite sure that the proportion would have been reversed — that a single human life would have been considered far more valuable than the lives of any number of animals. That was in 1976, on the ice at the Front, north of Newfoundland. I was reporting on the seal hunt. Watson was there with Greenpeace, of which he was a founding member.

That year, the Front was covered by all the major American TV networks, the wire services, and influential papers like the Boston Globe. The gory images that flashed around the world were a disaster for the sealing industry and the Canadian government. Ever since then, DFO has worked implacably to prevent detailed coverage of the slaughter — and it has largely succeeded. Except for Paul Watson.

In those days we hadn’t begun to grasp the damage that human beings had already done to the oceans. We didn’t know about the fury of destruction that has eliminated 90 per cent of the world’s large predatory fishes. We hadn’t watched while DFO "managed" the Atlantic cod and the Pacific salmon into commercial extinction.

But Watson understood in his viscera that we were confronting an armada of death supported by pliant and amoral authority. With growing support, he has fought them ever since — and, with his fellow green warriors he has changed the world. The truth is that two worlds are colliding every spring at the seal hunt.

Silver Donald Cameron’s columns for The NovaScotian appear online at http://silverdonaldonsunday.blogspot.com/
If you can drop Silver Donald Cameron and line to thank-him for his viewpoint. Thanks, Paul Watson

Comment: If you'd like to support the Sea Shepherd's work and that of Captain Paul Watson:

“I have been honored to serve the whales, dolphins, seals – and all the other creatures on this Earth. Their beauty, intelligence, strength, and spirit have inspired me. These beings have spoken to me, touched me, and I have been rewarded by friendship with many members of different species.

If the whales survive and flourish, if the seals continue to live and give birth, and if I can contribute to ensuring their future prosperity, I will be forever happy.”  http://www.seashepherd.org/

'Not a good time to be selling fur': Atlantic sealers

February 10, 2009 Ken Meaney, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA — The dismal world economy may be hanging like a club over Canada’s seal hunt, an economic lifeline for thousands of Atlantic Canadians but an activity that has also spawned groups determined to shut it down.

Robert Courtney, of Dingwall, N.S., should be hunting in Nova Scotia’s small Hay Island hunt right now. Instead, his crew, the only hunters permitted to go to the protected wildlife area for the 2,000-animal hunt, haven’t taken any seals. Their boat is tied up in Main a Dieu, N.S., becalmed by lack of markets for seal pelts. “Fur is a luxury item and people are not running out to buy fur coats,” Courtney said Tuesday, adding it will be a $60,000 loss for his 25-man crew if they don’t find a buyer in the three weeks remaining in the hunt.

He blames the economy, and he worries what he’s seeing now could be repeated on a larger scale when the Gulf harp seal hunt opens in March. “It’s not a good time to be selling fur and there is a lot of pelts in inventory from the harp seal hunt last year,” he said.

In 2008, Courtney, who took part in both the Hay Island and Gulf hunts, got $22 per grey seal pelt and $33 per harp — less than the year before. He worries the lack of demand this year will mean even lower prices. “Once you go down below $15, it’s getting pretty (low),” he said. “At $10, you wouldn’t be able to break even.”

Jamie Baker of Newfoundland’s Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, many of whose members are sealers, said they haven’t seen any indication that prices will plunge this year.  “All efforts are being made to see the markets shape up,” he said.

But the animal rights group Humane Society International doesn’t think that’s going to happen. “It’s clear that the markets are closing and the world is not prepared to buy the products, or the cruelty, anymore,” said Rebecca Aldworth, adding it’s time for the federal government to buy out the industry. “I think the writing is on the wall for the commercial seal hunt in Canada.”

Back in Main a Dieu, Courtney pauses when asked what he thinks he’ll get for harps this year. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the market. . . . Even the buyers will tell you right now they don’t have an idea what the price is going to be for the harps. But they are saying now is not a good time to be in the fur market.” With files from Global News

Comment: The fur industry is nothing short of despicable and brutal. The annual commercial Canadian seal slaughter is truly a black mark on our country and has been criticized and condemned the world over.  Keep pressuring the Canadian government to stop subsidizing this cruelty and end it, once and for all.  Read more on websites like IFAW, PETA and HSI on ways to take action.

March 4, 2009- AFP American Free Press

OTTAWA (AFP) — Faced with the prospect of a European ban on the trade of seal products, a Canadian senator on Tuesday hopelessly proposed an end to this country's controversial commercial seal hunt.

Senator Mac Harb introduced a private members bill that would end the commercial seal slaughter in Canada, but allow the traditional Inuit hunt to continue. "In the face of disappearing markets for seal products and overwhelming international opposition, it is time for Canada to recognize that we can't resuscitate this dying industry any longer," Harb said in a statement.

He was backed at a press conference by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which described this first time a Canadian politician has introduced legislation to put an end to the largest marine mammal slaughter in the world as "a truly historic moment." It heralds "the beginning of the inevitable end to Canada's commercial seal hunt," echoed activist lawyer Clayton Ruby.

The bill failed to gain any support from the start, however, even from Harb's fellow Liberals, and was immediately dropped from the senate's agenda. "This bill was stillborn," a Liberal spokesman told AFP.

On Monday, the European Union's legislative branch voted to ban products derived from seals from being imported into the EU, exported from it, or even transported through EU territory. The Canadian government responded with an ardent defense of the "humaneness" of seal-hunting and rejected efforts to outlaw the practice. ***

The full European Parliament is to vote on the ban at a April 1 plenary session in Brussels. The measure also has to be approved by EU governments before it can be implemented. The European Commission had already proposed a ban in July 2008 for seals killed in ways deemed inhumane by critics of seal hunting, such as the clubbing of young seal pups, but it failed to pass.

Seals are hunted mainly for their pelts, but also for meat and fat, which is used in beauty products. According to the European Commission, Canada, Greenland, and Namibia account for about 60 percent of the 900,000 seals hunted each year, with Canada being the biggest source. Seals are also hunted in Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States as well as in EU member states Britain, Finland and Sweden.

Each year, anti-sealing activists clash with sealers and Canadian fisheries officials on Canada's Atlantic coast, denouncing the hunt as cruel. This year's hunt is set to start in one month.

March 5, 2009 Thousands of emails calling for an end to the seal hunt flood Senate inboxes, Canadian government shuts down email servers. Please take action now, even if you've already sent your email letter once, to let Canada's Senators know that CANADIANS and the world are watching.  Refuse to be silenced!

Canada vows to take seal ban fight to WTO 

May 5, 2009 Janice Tibbetts, Peter O'Neil and Linda Nguyen for The Province

OTTAWA — The federal government has a strong case to launch a World Trade Organization challenge to a European ban on seal products because the decision was based on "people's feelings" rather than hard facts, says Trade Minister Stockwell Day.

"We're moving ahead with an appeal," Day told Canwest News Service on Tuesday, warning that the trade action will proceed unless the European Union Parliament exempts Canada and other countries that he said practise humane and sustainable seal hunting. "We'll go to the WTO because it's clear in WTO regulations that if one country wants to ban the products of another, it has to have clear scientific, medically acceptable reasons for doing so, and this EU ban is not based on hard science."

The EU Parliament voted 550-49 Tuesday to eliminate seal product imports — such as such as pelts, oil, and meat — a prohibition that would mean a $2.4 million loss for the Canadian industry.

The proposal still must be approved by individual European governments before becoming law and if passed, it could take effect as early as 2010 in the 27 EU nations. The law would include some exemptions to Inuit communities so they can continue their traditional hunts.

Day said that the vote was based on emotion rather than facts because opponents portray the seal hunt as it was 40 years ago. But he said that it has changed and Canada deserves an exemption because it follows internationally accepted guidelines. Among other things, Canada no longer allows the clubbing of baby seals while they still have their white coats.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea defended the government's planned trade action, a challenge that could turn out to be relatively expensive, given that the entire Canadian industry, based on the East Coast, is worth an estimated $7 million.

"When you live in small coastal communities, sometimes there's not many opportunities to make some additional money," she said on Parliament Hill. "We have a number of families who make up to 35 per cent of their annual income from the seal hunt. So yes, I do think it's very important."

Shea described the European Parliament's decision as a "politically motivated" one that was driven by special interest groups who have "spent a lot of money misleading the public in Europe" for decades. Shea singled out French actress Brigitte Bardot, one of the first of many celebrities to attack the seal hunt. Her high-profile campaign included a 1977 trip to the ice floes off the East Coast, where a famous photograph was taken of her holding a baby seal.

The European Parliament's move pitted sealers against animal-rights groups, who have decried the annual spring seal hunt as barbaric.*****

"This is a historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial seal hunts around the world," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of the Humane Society International Canada, adding that European parliamentarians who supported the law held up photographs and stuffed seal toys before the vote.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union could not contain his anger toward the EU Parliament. "They are trying to tell us how to live, to pass judgment on how we live with no regards whatsoever for the impact a growing seal population would have on our fish stocks," he said.

Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen's Association in Nova Scotia, said the government will have to cull the fish-preying seal herd if the ban goes ahead and sealers are no longer motivated to hunt.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams called on the Conservative government to retaliate by walking away from a pending trade deal with the European Union being negotiated at a Canada-EU summit in Prague. "While this vote is certainly a blow to the Canadian sealing industry, it comes at a time when the Government of Canada is very well positioned to deliver a strong message to the European Union," Williams said in a statement. He also called on Harper to urge EU countries to reject the seal ban.

In the House of Commons, MPs from all parties voted to hold a debate Tuesday night to take note "that the seal hunt is a humane and legitimate economic pursuit, and that the European Parliament's recent decision to ban the importation of seal products is misinformed, inflammatory, counterproductive, and should be rejected."

The Department of Fisheries estimates the seal population in Canada at about 5.6 million. It sets an annual quota for the hunt, which this spring was 280,000. The bulk of the country's 7,000 sealers are based in Newfoundland. 

Comment: May 05, 2009 1:32 PM Carmina said: It's an absolute outrage that the Canadian government would even consider challenging the seal ban. The annual bloody murder binge is abhorrent to any civilized person, as is pandering to a minority of barbarians who claim culture or job loss.  

Seal skin uniforms touted for Olympic athletes

May 7, 2009 Katie Mercer, The Province

The uniforms of Canadian Olympic athletes will become a little hairy if parliamentarians get their way.

The Bloc Quebecois tabled a motion Thursday calling on the government to integrate seal pelts into the uniforms to show solidarity for embattled East Coast seal hunters. The motion, which received unanimous support, would use the 2010 Games to protest the European Union’s ban on seal products. Fisheries Minister Gail Shea called it “a good symbolic suggestion.”  “I think it would be a good statement for the Canadian sealing industry and Canada’s support of it,” he said.

But the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said the 2010 Games won’t be drawn into the political fray. “The profile of the Olympics lends itself to many social causes who seek to engage themselves with the Olympics and co-opt the Olympic brand,” said COC CEO Chris Rudge. “We are not a political or social organization, we’re a sport organization.

“If we were to choose to engage ourselves in these many political and social issues I think we would diminish the power of the Olympic movement to bring people together.” Rudge noted that the COC is an independent body that doesn’t receive government funding.

The government’s motion won’t affect the 2010 uniforms, which are already in production, he said. Incorporating seal skin would also be a violation of the Olympic Charter. Under the Charter, Olympic committees, athletes and members of the team are prohibited from engaging in political and social commentary in, around and during the Games. “I don’t think this is something the athletes need to be engaged in,” said Rudge.

Vancouverite John Vavrick said the addition to the uniforms would only increase scrutiny of Canada’s seal hunting industry. “I think it’s ridiculous and it doesn’t have any value and it’s going to create all sorts of upheaval given how people feel about seal hunting,” said Vavrick, 53. “I don’t really know why the government is supporting seal hunting to such an extent ... it doesn’t make any sense to me, it’s a political hot potato that has little value at the end of the day.”

Comment: May 07, 2009  11:59 AM  Carmina says: The government's totally lost it. The vast majority of Canadians don't support the seal slaughter, the EU has overwhelmingly voted in favour of banning seal products, and now Canadian athletes are supposed to be pawns in this political mess? Not going to happen.  

May 7, 2009 

From: Carmina Gooch
To: Stephen Harper, PM,
Cc: Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Alex Atamanenko,
Mr. Andrew Saxton, MP, Gilles Duceppe, MP 
Re: No seal slaughter, no sealskin outfits for Olympic athletes

Dear Prime Minister Harper: 

It's an outrage that the Canadian government would even consider challenging the seal ban.  The annual bloody murder binge is abhorrent to any civilized person, as is pandering to a minority of barbarians who claim culture or job loss.  So what!  The world has condemned the actions of our country, and the European Union has spoken loud and clear.  Clubbing baby seals to death is immoral and inexcusable.  It is not a "legitimate industry." 

The fact that Canada's Parliamentarians endorsed the Bloc's ludicrous motion that would see 2010 Olympic athletes decked out in sealskin speaks volumes.  It's a classic politics without principles. 

Thank gawd the Olympic Committees and a swift public outcry nipped that crackpot idea in the bud. 


Carmina Gooch
North Vancouver, B.C.

May 7, 2009 update: The Canadian government won't tell Canadian athletes they should wear sealskin products at the 2010 Winter Games, the minister responsible for sport said Wednesday. But don't be surprised if the sealing industry shows up in Vancouver promoting its products just as the wine industry will promote Canadian ice wines, said Gary Lunn, the minister for the Olympics.  Mr. Lunn further added that if PETA wants to target the Games, he can’t stop the group. Vanoc spokesperson Renee Smith-Valade doesn't like the idea of PETA protesting the torch relay but respect's "the right to peaceful freedom of expression," she said.

March 17, 2014 Canadian minister challenges moral basis of European seal product ban


Comment: Aglukkaq continually defends the criminality of this industry. We will never have a just society if moral values are not imbedded in policy and law. In a democracy, government listens to its people. As a compassionate nation, we speak for those who are oppressed and  cannot unite and speak for themselves. Ban the seal slaughter!   


May 22, 2014 EU seal product ban upheld in WTO appeal 


May 22, 2014 WTO ‘morals’ decision could escalate animal welfare disputes


Foie gras, veal, even your run-of-the-mill broiler chickens could face trade restrictions on the grounds that the treatment of the animals to make the products violates “public morals,” observers of a precedent-setting World Trade Organization decision say.

Norway scraps controversial seal-hunting subsidy

Comment: Meanwhile, the Canadian government continues to prop up dying industries, most recently Nova Scotia’s mink industry. The public is increasingly vocalizing their opposition to immoral, cruel, and outdated industries, demanding that their tax dollars not be directed to such inhumanity.

December 12, 2014 NS mink industry facing financial disaster (Nova Scotia) 2020 updates: COVID-19 outbreaks at mink farms, including in BC

Comment: That such an immoral industry is still supported by government is an assault on all humanity. Citizens have been rising up for years against such atrocities and demanding an end to the slaughter of animals, who have just as much right to live as we do. Using living beings as commodities for capital is obscene.

It’s a fundamental injustice that needs to be addressed by the courts, and if it isn’t, we can expect actions to escalate beyond peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience.

January 9, 2015 Canada's Government Needs To Stop Providing Subsidies for Fur updates

Wearing fur is sheer ignorance at the very least & at its worst, an out-and-out disregard for the suffering of others.

Comment: There are few laws regulating the keeping, handling or killing of cage-raised fur-bearing animals in Canada. The majority of regulations are entirely voluntary and simply reflect the standard practices used to make the most possible profit off of each animal with the least possible amount of input and care. https://thefurbearers.com/faq/fur-industry-claims/fur-farm-regulations

End Canada’s archaic fur industry. Ongoing actions to ban it NOW! Contact your MP and MLA.

December 22, 2020 Yes, Canada has a fur farm industry. No, it shouldn’t exist.  https://factoryfarmcollective.ca/yes-canada-has-a-fur-farm-industry-no-it-shouldnt-exist/


Visit our Ethics Page

Return to Home Page