thank you, senator harb: help end the commercial seal hunt

Canadian Senator Mac Harb has been fighting for many years to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada. I admire him and his struggle, which must be lonely at times, and at the moment has little to no official support.

The Canadian commercial seal hunt is a shameful waste of life that contributes very little (if at all) to the economy of Atlantic Canada. It is a vestige of a bygone era, and it should be retired along with the specious arguments propping it up. Despite claims to the contrary, abolishing the seal hunt will not harm aboriginal sustenance hunters, as their native status exempts them from laws governing commercial fishing and sealing.

Evidence against the commercial seal hunt continues to pile up. Most recently, a landmark study concluded that the seal hunt is "inherently inhumane", and cannot be altered to conform with acceptable animal-welfare standards.
"Canada’s commercial seal hunt does not occur in a controlled environment. Rather, it happens far offshore where high winds and ocean swells, low temperatures and visibility, and unstable sea ice are common elements,” said British veterinarian Andrew Butterworth, DVM. “The evidence shows that these factors, paired with the speed at which the killing must occur due to economic and safety pressures, prevent consistent and effective application of humane slaughter methods in the Canadian commercial seal hunt.”

“I have studied the Canadian seal hunt extensively, and concluded that it is an inherently inhumane activity because of the environment in which it operates and the speed at which the killing happens,” said Canadian veterinarian Mary Richardson, DVM. “What is clear is that climate change is actually exacerbating the situation, by altering the physical environment in which sealers work. The decrease in sea ice cover in recent years is likely increasing instances in which seals are shot at in open water, wounded and left to suffer, and impaled on gaffs and dragged onto vessels while conscious. These are all situations in which seals suffer significantly."
I remain convinced that the commercial seal hunt's years are numbered. Eventually it will go the way of fox hunting in the UK, another long-standing tradition of animal torture that is now illegal, to be joined one day by bullfighting. The European Union has already wisely banned trade in commercial seal products, and there are other signs that the hunt is waning. Supporters of the commercial seal hunt are on the wrong side of history.

The Harper government lies about the commercial seal hunt and tries to demonize animal welfare activists as dangerous extremists. In other words, they do what they do.

And Senator Mac Harb continues to fight for common sense and animal welfare, swimming upstream against Canadian politics, but refusing to go away. Those of us involved in the struggle to keep US Iraq War resisters in Canada can easily imagine how he might feel.

Here's the latest update on the Harb Seal Bill, Bill S-210.
Dear Friends,

On October 16th, I delivered a speech in the Senate on the need to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada as part of the ongoing debate on my Bill S-210. We worked hard to put forth the rational, factual arguments in favour of moving those involved in this industry into better economic opportunities.

However, the Conservative response on S-210 reveals the sorry state of leadership on this file. Misleading claims that sealers make 35% of their annual income from the seal hunt (meaning that east coast fishers who made an average $1000 in recent hunts would be bringing home a grand total of $3,000 per year) and a continued failure to acknowledge that the market for seal products is gone and not coming back, symbolize the Conservatives’ stubborn refusal to accept and work with the facts facing the commercial sealing industry.

The Conservatives’ continued attacks on Canadians who are opposed to the hunt, and on animal welfare groups in particular, shows how out of touch the government is and how desperately it is trying to hide its own lack of long-term management plans for the seals and the larger fishery. The government is not listening to Canadians, it is not helping sealers and it is not helping our northern and aboriginal sealers who need their support. Canadians deserve better.

Please keep up the great work letting Senators know that you support our efforts to end the commercial seal hunt and to move those affected into profitable, viable economic opportunities.


Hon. Senator Mac Harb
You can write a letter in support of the Harb Seal Bill: go here. HSI Canada has several ideas on how you can add your voice to the fight to end the commercial seal hunt, whether you live in Canada, the EU, or the US: go here.

You can also read more of what Senator Harb has to say, subscribe to his blog, and join his cause.

And finally, for a short summary of the arguments in support of the commercial seal hunt, you might read comments on my first post about Canadian seal slaughter, from April 2005, months before we moved here.

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