5.08.2009

eu does the right thing, canada makes a fool of itself

Before the news hit the mainstream media, HSI Canada emailed about the great victory for seals in Europe, with the EU enacting a nearly absolute ban on all seal products.

Then - I'm getting caught up now, having been out of the country - Parliament voted to use the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to promote seal products, including the use of at least one seal product in Team Canada's uniform - stupidly reported as "Team Canada to wear sealskin uniforms in Vancouver". Team Canada, to its credit, wants no part of it.

[As an aside, I can't help but notice how this non-binding motion about the Olympics got a ton of coverage, with most media acting as if a law has been passed. Meanwhile, the non-binding motion calling on the government to stop deporting US war resisters and allow them to apply for permanent residence in Canada - passed by Parliament twice - is completely ignored.]

Looking for the seal-slaughter news, I saw a large number of newspaper editorials opposing the seal hunt and calling for its end, an encouraging sign. Here's a first-hand report written by Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International/Canada; click through for video.
I have watched history being made today. The European Union has closed its borders to products of cruel commercial seal slaughters, removing a primary market for Canada's globally-condemned sealing industry. Many believe this ban will deliver a blow from which the Canadian seal slaughter may not recover.

The Canadian government tried every trick in the book to try to derail the ban: sending massive delegations to lobby on behalf of the sealing industry, misinforming decision-makers, and even threatening trade reprisals. But the EU acted on behalf of its citizens and, in doing so, has saved millions of defenseless seals from a horrible fate.

We've Made History

I grew up in sealing country, and I have observed the commercial hunt for 11 years. In that time, I have witnessed cruelty that no thinking, compassionate person could ever accept. It has been difficult, often heartbreaking. But I have always known that in bearing witness to this slaughter, we can stop it.

Every year, the ProtectSeals team has endured hazardous conditions to document the seal hunt. We are committed to showing the world that the Canadian government is lying when it claims that the hunt is humane.

On our trips to the ice, Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States have brought key opinion shapers such as Paul McCartney and Swedish Member of the European Parliament Carl Schlyter. Neither has wavered in speaking out against the hunt. Shortly after seeing the seal hunt, Schlyter introduced a resolution in the European Parliament, calling on the EU to ban trade in seal products. Our footage of the seal slaughter and our testimony were key in convincing the rest of the EU to agree to the ban. It gives me enormous satisfaction to know that we played a central role in making history for seals.

What Does It Mean?

This is the beginning of the end for the Canadian seal slaughter. The Canadian government estimates the loss of the EU market will cost Canada’s sealing industry $6.6 million (CAD) annually. Given that the landed value of the Canadian seal hunt last year was less than $7 million, the implications are enormous.

With this ban, the EU joins the United States (which outlawed seal products in 1972) and Mexico and Croatia, which ended the trade in 2006. Soon there will be nowhere left to sell the products of cruel commercial seal slaughters, and seals will be worth more alive than dead.

Seals' lives have already been saved. Just the promise of an EU ban was enough to drive this year's price for seal fur down to $15 (CAD) per skin—a decline of 86 percent since 2006.

As a result, many sealers stayed home. Out of Canada's quota of 338,200 seals, fewer than 60,000 have been killed to date. By the regulated closing date of the seal hunt — May 15 — it is likely more than a quarter of a million baby seals will have been spared.

Now that the EU has banned its trade in seal products, countless more seals will live out their lives in peace from this year forward.

What's Next?

We must remain vigilant. With generous government subsidies, the Canadian sealing industry may soon develop new markets for seal products. We must make certain that other nations follow the example set by the EU. The ProtectSeals campaign is working in several key countries already to ensure that there is nowhere left for the Canadian sealing industry to market its products.

The only way to permanently end Canada's commercial seal slaughter is for the Canadian government to pass a strong law prohibiting commercial seal hunting. Senator Mac Harb has introduced such a ban, but no other senator has yet been brave enough yet to step forward and support it.

We are working hard in Canada to turn public opposition to the seal hunt into political action. The overwhelming majority of Canadians want the slaughter to stop, and it is time for the government to take action.

There is still much work to do, but we should all take a moment to celebrate this historic achievement. We have won this victory as a movement, and it is one we will remember for decades to come.

I am grateful to the European Union for rejecting cruelty, and I am grateful for everyone who has worked so very hard to make this day possible. The seals could not ask for stronger allies.

Ways to get involved here.

30 comments:

impudent strumpet said...

Jinx! I totally just blogged about the same thing.

This gov't keeps embarrassing us in front of Europe. It's like they don't want us to be friends with the cool kids or something.

RevDave said...

I wish we could drop this issue and forget about it. A unanimous vote to drape seal furs over our Olympic athletes and turn them into walking billboards for the sealing sector? How childish.

James said...

Canada's behaviour is very similar to that of Japan with whaling. There is almost no market for whale products anywhere in the world, including Japan. But Japan insists on hunting whales, even though the whalers can't sell their catch and the government has to subsidize them. It's just some stupid national identity thing.

L-girl said...

"I wish we could drop this issue and forget about it."

I'm sure the sealers would love that. But those of us who want to save the seals from pointless slaughter don't want to drop it and forget it. Animals can't advocate for themselves, so they need us to do it for them.

"Canada's behaviour is very similar to that of Japan with whaling. ... It's just some stupid national identity thing."

Yes, definitely a parallel there. As ImpStrump and RevDave point out, it makes Canada behave very childlishly.

RevDave said...

Why, though? I don't have any seal fur. Nobody I know has any seal fur. Why make it part of our "identity"?

The government and the industry want it to be part of "national identity" because that's pretty much the only strategy they have left to drum up public support on this lost cause.

L-girl said...

"The government and the industry want it to be part of "national identity" because that's pretty much the only strategy they have left to drum up public support on this lost cause."

Besides the sealers themselves, the people who support it seem to be the people who are against all change, especially change that can be ascribed to liberals or progressives. Even though all parties voted for this motion, I think we know who the core constituency is on this one.

Cutting off demand is a huge step, though. It will make a difference.

JakeNCC said...

ok I will probably offend just by asking but this is an issue that I'm not up on so my question may seem cruel or naive but Laura your answers always seem to make my light go on so here goes...Why is the Seal hunt considered worse than the harvest/slaughter of other animals such as cows or hogs or such? Is it just the visual of blood on ice and we just dont see what happens in beef slaugterhouses?

L-girl said...

Jake, by now you should know you won't offend by asking.

"Why is the Seal hunt considered worse than the harvest/slaughter of other animals such as cows or hogs or such? Is it just the visual of blood on ice and we just dont see what happens in beef slaugterhouses?"

For many people, the answer is, it's not worse, it's all equally awful.

I know something about what goes on in slaughterhouses. I was a vegetarian for a few years, and ethically, that's what I prefer, but it wasn't sustainable for me. Now I eat meat that is not part of the industrial food chain, so at least the animals are raised humanely. And hopefully killed as quickly as possible, although I know that may not always be the case.

However, I make a distinction between animals that are killed for other animals (humans) to eat and animals that are killed for fashion, so-called sport, tradition or simply for cruelty.

There is plenty of meat from animals that are raised specifically for meat, that wouldn't exist without agriculture. We don't need to go into the wild and kill more animals.

The seal hunt - according to everyone but people who have an interest in perpetuating it - is also a brutal slaughter. The killing is done in horrific ways, so as not to do less damage to the animals' coats.

I don't think one need be a vegetarian to oppose the slaughter of animals for fur.

I hope that helps, but if you want to know more, just ask. Naturally I'm only giving my opinion, based on my own reading and feelings.

L-girl said...

Typo: "The killing is done in horrific ways, so as not to do less damage to the animals' coats. "

To do less damage - or not to damage.

RevDave said...

Speaking as someone who isn't vegetarian...

Assuming that baby seals are no longer being clubbed to death, it's not necessarily that it's better or worse than any of the other ways we get meat - except that in this case, we're not killing them for food to sustain ourselves, we're killing them for luxury clothing purposes. Which is definitely something different.

What does matter here is that our country seems morally outrageous trying to force other countries to buy our animal products. When I learn that someone is vegetarian (and it does happen on a regular basis), I don't immediately grab a slice of ham and attempt to force it down their throat. I respect their decision not to eat meat.

L-girl said...

"except that in this case, we're not killing them for food to sustain ourselves, we're killing them for luxury clothing purposes. Which is definitely something different."

Indeed, that is the key for most people.

"What does matter here is that our country seems morally outrageous trying to force other countries to buy our animal products. When I learn that someone is vegetarian (and it does happen on a regular basis), I don't immediately grab a slice of ham and attempt to force it down their throat."

Well said!

I find both halves the equation outrageous - the killing for fur and the pressure on the EU.

JakeNCC said...

See I'm so uniformed about the seal hunt that if you had mentioned seal coats I would have thought you were talking about clothing designed by Heidi Klum's husband. I'm not real sure what I thought they did with seals but I didn't realize they were killed for their furs.

I'm such an animal nut that I turn away from the tv when theres a story on animal abuse or puppy mills and such. I usually skip your wolf posts because I just don't allow my mind to go there. But I long ago realized I can't live without meat or shoes and have just put the thought of where this stuff comes from out of my head.

and L I know cant offend you with honest questions I just didnt want to seem uncaring to the other posters.

L-girl said...

"See I'm so uniformed about the seal hunt that if you had mentioned seal coats I would have thought you were talking about clothing designed by Heidi Klum's husband. "

And I'm so uninformed about celebrities that I don't even know what this means. :) I'm guessing Heidi Klum is married to Seal, the singer? I know who Heidi Klum is but I couldn't pick her out of a supermodel lineup.

"I'm such an animal nut that I turn away from the tv when theres a story on animal abuse or puppy mills and such. I usually skip your wolf posts because I just don't allow my mind to go there. But I long ago realized I can't live without meat or shoes and have just put the thought of where this stuff comes from out of my head."

I understand completely, and until recently I was the same way. Lately I have forced myself to look - when I'm able.

"and L I know cant offend you with honest questions I just didnt want to seem uncaring to the other posters."

You are more considerate than I, as I thought you were only concerned with offending me!

JakeNCC said...

Heidi Klum is the host of Project Runway which of course is required viewing for queers. And she is married to Seal although I too wouldnt know who he was unless he were married to Heidi.

L-girl said...

And by queers I suppose you mean queer men. Cause us queer grrls can mostly live without Project Runway. :)

James said...

And I've managed to do without it as well. I guess being half-queer confers immunity or something. ;)

JakeNCC said...

yep, probably not required viewing for dykes unless they enjoy the beautiful models. ha.

dogsled_stacie said...

I'm no expert in the seal hunt, but I DO have a problem with banning it if it impedes with a traditional, subsistence based lifestyle.

The people commenting here may not know of anyone who actually owns any seal products, but speak to anyone north of 60 and you will get a much different perspective. I know quite a few people with seal/beaver/polar bear products (hats/mitts/boots/etc). Fur is not always for fashion.

We don't need to go into the wild and kill more animals. Wow, that's a statement you hear rarely in these parts! And I'd wager to say that moose, caribou, deer (all much healthier for you and leaner than beef) are killed much more humanely than cows in a slaughterhouse. They also have a much better quality of life. Growing up and spending tons of time on a farm, I've also seen how crappy the life of a cow can be. I've seen cows trampled to death, buried in mud, steers with broken legs (end up with a bullet to the head), cows with bellies ripped open from wolves, calves freezing to death/ears half missing due to frost (that's in southern alberta and nebraska!). Granted, some of that happens in the wild too. Nature is rough. We eat meat. Something has to die.

I think this discussion is missing an important perspective. Laura - I know of a few people who have a slightly different view on sealing (and hunting)... but are also a respectful bunch, so I'd like to pass on this post to them if you don't mind. I think it might get some interesting dialogue going! I won't pass it on until you ok it. Let me know! :)

L-girl said...

Stacie, I was wondering if you'd stop by! When I saw "I don't know anyone who has seal products," I thought of the North, and you.

"I'm no expert in the seal hunt, but I DO have a problem with banning it if it impedes with a traditional, subsistence based lifestyle."

But the eastern sealers aren't killing seals as part of a traditional lifestyle. They are commercial sealers. Their kills are sold to the fur industry. Otherwise, why would the EU ban hurt them so much?

"I think this discussion is missing an important perspective. Laura - I know of a few people who have a slightly different view on sealing (and hunting)... but are also a respectful bunch, so I'd like to pass on this post to them if you don't mind. I think it might get some interesting dialogue going! I won't pass it on until you ok it. Let me know! :)"

Thank you for asking. :)

I can't really in good conscience say no to that. So I won't. But my experience with these discussions on this blog (almost every year at seal hunt time) have been very negative.

I generally feel if someone wants alternative perspectives on any issue on this blog, they can easily find it online themselves. I generally don't like to host the other side of the debate.

I wouldn't deny anyone in the north their substinence lifestyle. But I don't see what that has to do with the annual seal hunt in the east.

So I'm saying yes, because I can't really say no, but I'm kind of cringing.

L-girl said...

On second thought...

This post is about the annual seal hunt in the east, not a condemnation of people who hunt for substinence. I'd rather not use this post as a forum to discuss and debate hunting in general, since that's not what I'm writing about. Thanks.

dogsled_stacie said...

No need to cringe, I am serious when I say these guys are very respectful and open to others opinions. I think it really would bring a different perspective here - from mine too! You can read all about the seal hunt from all different perspectives, but being right there in the thick of things has real value I believe.

I'm actually really interested in this whole topic and think a lot could be learned (or maybe just me... selfish eh!!??). Not interested in a heated discussion (friggin' hate those!!), just an opportunity for awareness. :)

On topic- I feel it is difficult to separate the two industries (commercial vs. traditional) - one of the main industries for the Inuit is the commercial seal hunt. They market seal products abroad as well. Some say their economic survival depends on it... who are we to deny them their right to sustain themselves in a land that is already harsh and often struggling? One just needs to take a look at suicide rates in small communities in the north and the numbers are staggering.

dogsled_stacie said...

Here's an interesting article that ties the two hunts together.

Inuit need Commercial Seal Hunt
There are two primary types of seal hunting in Canada: traditional Inuit hunting (subsistence) and commercial (RE: "WTO Retaliation Threatened as EU Seal Ban Draws Closer," March 4).

As an Inuk senator and hunter, my concerns are for the economic well-being of my people. Contrary to popular belief, when the Inuit harvest seals, we use the entire animal: we use the pelts for clothing, the meat for sustenance, and the oil is very valuable to us. We rely on the seal hunt as one of our food sources. In the north, pre-packaged food is a luxury that few of us can afford, so we harvest our food from the land and the sea.

We perceive the seals differently than people in the south. Some groups like to portray them as cute, blue-eyed animals with a playful character, but to us, they are the wild dogs of the sea and they are direct competitors for food. Seals, like humans, hunt fish. In areas prolific with seals, our ability to feed ourselves is greatly diminished.

Inuit hunters are few in number. We catch the seals and process them in the ocean and along the shore. The meat that we collect goes into the community freezer and is used to feed the less fortunate in our communities. This is our traditional way.

As Inuk-Canadians, we also believe we are keeping the ecosystem in balance—if we let the seal population get out of control, we might not have anything left for ourselves. This is a real threat. Since quotas on the harp seals were introduced, their number has tripled.

From an economic perspective, the commercial seal hunt is our main industry and the only source of income for many Inuit. In order to make up the volume that we need for our Inuit commercial hunt, we rely on other non-Inuit hunters to supplement our catch. We also rely on the Newfoundlanders to harvest the harp seals when they are migrating. This is a seasonal activity.

We appreciate the understanding of the European Community in their attempts to exclude the Inuit from their ban on the subsistence hunt. Nevertheless this is not the issue; we are concerned about the commercial hunt. We market our products abroad. We rely on the sale of our pelts and by-products. We need this industry for our economic survival.

We strongly support the commercial hunt in Canada and we continue to support our brothers in Newfoundland and the lower St Laurence.

Charlie Watt, Liberal Senator

L-girl said...

Well obviously, I can't say no at this point, although my "yes" is very reluctant!

Thank you, Stacie, for being so respectful of my blog and my guidelines. I appreciate it.

* * * *

I actually do oppose allowing certain people to continue activities based on tradition. Slavery was a tradition, so was child labour, so is spousal abuse in many cultures. Dog-fighting is a cultural tradition for some people. So if I think something is cruel or unethical, I wouldn't make a special allowance for a community on the basis of tradition.

L-girl said...

"Some groups like to portray them as cute, blue-eyed animals with a playful character, but to us, they are the wild dogs of the sea and they are direct competitors for food."

Wild dogs of the sea? I oppose killing dogs, too. I oppose killing animals because they are competition for humans.

Stacie, since you've posted that story, is there really a need to bring others around to expand on it?

Meandering Michael said...

Thanks for hosting this discussion. While my opinions may differ drastically from your own, I appreciate the opportunity to share them - and to read those of others.

This discussion seems predicated on the idea that the Atlantic seal hunt is solely for seal furs and nothing else. There's also a market for the meat and oil - and even the organs. It's not like the seals are being skinned with the carcasses are being left to rot - that's just bad business - they're being used - the same way that any abattoir (or slaughterhouse, if you prefer), which tries to find value in every part of a farmed animal, would.

My biggest concern about the EU ban is not what's going to happen to the sealers, although a significant portion of their incomes will be affected (imagine that you live in an economically depressed areas and someone just took all of your earnings for an entire season for no other reason than "I don't like the idea of them killing seals"), but for the seals themselves.

In the '80s, when the anti-fur lobby successfully torpedoed the price of furs (based on sentiment for the furry little creatures), many trappers could no longer afford to trap. The sudden release of pressure on the animal populations caused the populations to explode, food supplies to dwindle and - not surprisingly for anyone who spends their time out time on the land - the population of furbearers to crash through starvation and disease.

If you ask any of the elders and old-timers (which I am able to do since I live near them), the animal populations have yet to recover. The explosion was followed by a subsequent explosion in the predator population - and predators tend to have a much longer lifespan than their prey, suppressing the "feedstock" populations over an extended period of time.

Sadly, the anti-sealing lobby may have just, inadvertently, hurt the seal population more than they know.

L-girl said...

"Thanks for hosting this discussion."

I am hosting this discussion because a friend pervailed on me to do so.

I'll read all the comments posted, but I won't respond. I don't actually want to discuss this. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Way Way Up said...

The EU ban of course totally ignores the impact that this will have on Northern economies, particularly here in Nunavut where subsistence hunting provides for a significant portion of the economy. The simple fact is that no amount of lobbying will ever stop seals from being harvested here in Nunavut. What is problematic is that the EU's actions will put a serious dent in Nunavut's economy. Even though exemptions were put in place in the '80's, the effect was the same - a decline in the price of seal pelts.

It is pretty easy to sit on the sidelines when one doesn't live here and say things like "well, people there should get a job or get a better education." Such solutions are simplistic in the extreme and ignore the realities of living in Nunavut.

I am not a hunter myself so so seal meat is not something I consume on a regular basis. I would respectfully submit that people who make the argument that "well, seal hunting may have been important up there and important to the culture but it's time they get with the times", really have no idea how things work up here. Europeans have been imposing their will on the indigenous people of the planet for centuries and I view this latest ban than nothing other than a continuation of this policy.

Inuit really are the stewards of their environment, more than I or any Southerner, or even a transplanted Southern like myself, can ever know. I would respectfully challenge any animal rights' activist to name ONE species hunted to extinction by Inuit here in Canada.....just one.

L-girl said...

Discussion is now closed.

Stacie, I'm sorry, I let you talk me into this, but I didn't want it, and don't want anymore. Thanks for your understanding.

L-girl said...

"well, people there should get a job or get a better education."

. . . .

I would respectfully challenge any animal rights' activist to name ONE species hunted to extinction by Inuit here in Canada.....just one.
**

No one said either of these things. This person is arguing with someone who is not even here.

L-girl said...

One more update: Imp Strump.