death in the snow

Last year when I blogged about the annual seal hunt, I was naturally (although politely) blasted by the usual questions about my own meat-eating practices.

So, full disclosure: I eat meat and use animal products. I had been a vegetarian for several years, but returned to a omnivore existence, mostly for health reasons. I have serious ethical issues with my own meat-eating, centering on the treatment of the farm animals and the methods under which they are killed. Yet I continue to eat meat.

I don't eat certain food that I feel inflicts too much suffering on an animal merely for human enjoyment. I wear leather. I would never wear fur.

So that's out of the way.

The argument that one can't oppose the slaughter of animals for pelts unless one opposes the slaughter of animal for food is specious and doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

All human morality recognizes motivations and gradations. Most people agree it is wrong to kill other people. Yet most people can also imagine scenarios where it is acceptable for one person to kill another. Most people in western society eat animal flesh. Most of those people would not condone, say, the torture of a dog.

Since moving to Canada, I've spoken with many Canadians who oppose the annual Newfoundland seal hunt. They've also shown me that the rationales used to support it are bullshit. An editorial in this week's Globe And Mail supported the hunt. Here are two letters in response:
You state that "it has been illegal since 1987 to kill harp seals while they are still pups, and the hunt is weeks away." What is your definition of a pup? Here are the facts: It's illegal to kill a harp seal pup when it has its newborn white coat, but legal to kill it when the pup begins to shed its white coat (referred to as a "ragged jacket") at about 12 days old. Last year, 98.5 per cent of the seals killed were two months of age or younger.

That's still a "pup" in my world.

Ainslie Willock, director, Canadians for Furbearing Animals


The only thing On Thin Ice in your editorial (March 2) is The Globe and Mail's irrational tirade in favour of the commercial seal hunt.

You would have us believe that efforts to stop the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world are a threat to the livelihoods of Newfoundlanders. However, sealing revenues account for less than 0.5 per cent of Newfoundland's gross domestic product and only 2 per cent of its fishery revenues. Sealing is an off-season activity for a few thousand commercial fishermen. They earn, on average, about 5 per cent of their incomes from sealing.

The Globe also falsely claims that killing seals by rifle is as "humane as the killing of animals can get." The reality is that when hunters shoot seals from moving boats, the pups are often only wounded and are left to suffer in agony. Many slip beneath the surface of the water, where they die slowly and are never recovered.

I grew up in Newfoundland, and I have observed the hunt at close range for the past seven years. The commercial seal hunt is a national disgrace -- as is the editorial position taken by The Globe and Mail.

Rebecca Aldworth, Canadian wildlife issues director, the Humane Society of the United States
Now Rex Murphy can pound his fist at Paul McCartney, just like he did not long ago at Michael Moore, and declare that no one rich or famous has a right to use that fame for what they see as the greater good, because they're all hypocrites. (Apparently one must take a vow of poverty before one supports movements to end hunger.)

Murphy writes a whole column about this. Uses a whole column of newspaper space to ridicule famous people working for social causes. This is the great commentator that everyone thinks is such a wit and a straight-shooter and an iconoclast. Perhaps they are too easily seduced by clever quips like "watching Sir Paul McCartney talking to Larry King about the Newfoundland seal hunt -- the pompous in full communion with the vacuous." Hilarious. And not just funny, pithy. Deep. Important. Paul McCartney is trying to save animals' lives, Rex Murphy is making fun of him. Who's wasting his time?

I've been reading and watching Rex Murphy for months, and my opinion of him is shrinking faster than the polar ice cap. Enough already: I'm tossing Murphy in the bin, where he can keep his fellow Newfoundlander Rick Mercer company. Neither of these guys are worth my time, and I've given up trying to figure out why I'm so alone in this opinion.

The bin is also where the seal hunt belongs. It's an abomination, and, to quote a famous person, a "stain on the character of the Canadian people".


Scott M. said...

A complete aside... when I saw the title "Death in the Snow" I thought you were talking about the Blizzard of 1977.

James Redekop said...

I'm reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse" right now, and the first thing that comes to mind is sustainability: if you want to ensure you'll have a source for seal fur, only go after adults that have reproduced.

Of course, few people think about sustainability...

Granny said...

We're meat eaters here and I've always had trouble explaining it to the girls (as well as myself).

I agree with you. I'm torn about hunting for food but for some it's necessary for survival which in itself is an indictment on society (our Appalachia for example).

In my opinion, seal hunts such as the one you described are right up there with fox hunts.

laura k said...

seal hunts such as the one you described are right up there with fox hunts

Yes. Barbaric, outdated, unnecessary, defended by claims of "tradition," as if that's an excuse for cruelty.

teflonjedi said...

As I explained to a vegetarian friend long ago, "I eat the cow; I wear the cow. What are you doing, wearing leather?" I had read, at about that time, that the natives had not only hunted the buffalo for food, but they also used the buffalo for clothing, housing, and tools. Consistency, that's what I admired.

I read "Fast Food Nation" several years ago (M lent it to me), and found it alarming. Mind you, I didn't stop eating meat, but I did cut back much more than I would have expected.

Was never a big fan of Rex Murphy myself. You're not alone there!

laura k said...

Fast Food Nation affected me a lot too - as did Anatomy of a Cheeseburger.

I personally have no objection to humans eating other animals. I wish the animals were treated better in their short time on earth, and killed quickly and humanely. We know that the factory farms don't offer that.

Was never a big fan of Rex Murphy myself. You're not alone there!

Cool! Perhaps he's not as universally popular as I thought.

James Redekop said...

I've never found anyone who's been fond of Rex Murphy. Mind you, I haven't looked... But the general impression people seem to have is that he's a blowhard who thinks clever banter is the same thing as intelligent writing.

laura k said...

I've never found anyone who's been fond of Rex Murphy.

This is a revelation!

a blowhard who thinks clever banter is the same thing as intelligent writing.

Well said! That's precisely my impression.

laura k said...

Sorry! Post your National Post articles on your own blog!

allan said...

National Post? ... You ain't sorry!

Cathy said...

You are unfortunately not completely informed; neither is Sir Paul.

laura k said...

I don't claim to be completely informed.

It is my opinion that slaughtering wild animals for fur is wrong. Morally, ethically wrong. Period.

That's the point of this post. If you thought otherwise, you were incorrect.

Alison said...

Great post.
I got here by googling up 'seal hunt' to see who else had been writing about it. Those who do support the 'harvest', mostly do so on the grounds of jobs for an industry decimated by government mismanagement, and no one wants to deny income to fishermen. This is the great dilemma and a continuing tragedy. I think if alternate income was found for fishermen, we would see a lot more public support to end this national embarrassment.

laura k said...

Thank you Alison. Thanks for stopping by.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Slightly off topic:

The french word for seal is "phoque", which of course sounds much like a certain English word. I've been watching the news in French lately (I'm trying to prevent my french skills from deteriorating) and it's a little hard not to giggle a bit as a anglophone.

commie sympathizer said...

rex murphy is an obsequious pain-in- the-ass - mediawhore - lickspittle!

i'm ranting because i was so disgusted by his hosting "cross country checkup" on sunday afternoon on the topic of canadian military aggression in afghanistan. it wasn't all his fault, however - his producer no doubt made the decisions on WHO TO CALL for interviews. why any canadian takes him seriously is beyond me.

steve heeren

Nerdbeard said...

What did Mercer ever do to you, anyway?