Updated April 5, 2017
Everyone loves spring. The trees awaken, the flowers bloom, and most of us feel an extra “spring” in our step. Unfortunately, with every spring also comes the Canadian commercial seal hunt. It is beyond comprehension to many of us that this barbaric and immensely cruel practice continues today. And yet these gentle, utterly defenseless, and beautiful animals that are already greatly suffering from climate change seen by the alarming shrinking ice floes, are also suffering the world’s largest marine mammal slaughter. The great Canadian shame – its once pristine white ice floes vastly stained with seal blood. Fishermen from rural Newfoundland and Labrador travel to the floes to club, shoot, bludgeon, and skin East Coast harp, hooded, and grey seals. The iconic white and fluffy harp seal pup with gorgeous big black eyes, seen pictured above, is at risk of being brutally killed once it sheds its white coat a mere two weeks later. About 95% of seals that are killed are very young – between three weeks and three months old. Footage has captured the unbelievable cruelty of many seals even being skinned alive…
So why are seals being killed? From 1983 to 1995, about 55 000 seals were killed annually for profit. For the 1996 hunt, the federal government increased the quota (total allowable catch) on commercial seal hunting and provided subsidies to encourage sealing. A whopping 267 000 seals were killed that year. The root of the government’s plan was to find a new way for East Coast fishermen to make a living since the cod fishing industry had collapsed. Cod was almost overfished to extinction. Using the seals as scapegoats, the government blamed the seals for eating all the cod. This gave them a “good” reason to promote sealing as alternate employment. Scientists and biologists have agreed that cod is only a small percentage of a seal’s diet. Furthermore, seals consume the predators of cod which balances out the ocean’s food web. Healthy fisheries need healthy and prosperous seal populations. Despite these scientific facts, the brutal seal hunt carries on as a deceitful and failing means of alleviating the collapse of a cod fishery brought on by the fishers themselves. By 2015, the quota was a staggering 468 000. How many seals were actually killed in 2015? Statistics show about 35 000, lower than previous years due to the sealing industry declining. That is still 35 000 too many. In 2016, Harpseals.org reports that the quota was 400 000 and sealers killed over 66 000 harp seal pups. That’s almost double the kills from 2015. But clearly, and thankfully, the quotas are not matching up with reality. However, there is still no justification for such high quotas and for killing so many innocent wild animals.
What is the seal market and who is buying seal products? The Canadian government has tried to create markets for seal meat, oil, and fur. Fur seems to be the only market and demand is low. Seal penises have also been sold to the Asian market to be used as an aphrodisiac. Sealers catch seals, cruelly cut off their penises, and throw them back into the ocean. The demand for seal penis has dropped with the invention of Viagara. But on the whole, the world has said no to the seal hunt and to importing seal products. Russia and the countries of the European Union are among the 35 countries supporting a ban on Canadian seal products. Despite the ban and low demand, the sealing industry has received over $50 million dollars in government funding since 1996. This industry would not exist if it weren’t for government subsidies. So Canadian tax dollars are funding this brutal slaughter. In addition, the government spends five times more to administer the hunt than the value it receives in exports. Some sealers defend sealing as part of their livelihood and culture, but opinions show that 75% of Newfoundland and Labrador residents agree it’s time to help sealers transition into other employment.
So how do we save our seals and end the senseless slaughter? We can collectively keep pressuring our government like other countries are doing. Write to the federal government and/or donate to help fund organizations whose aim is to protect seals, such as IFAW and Harpseals.org. Here are two links to pre-written letters to our Prime Minister and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that you can sign today. The IFAW letter is for Canadians only and the Humane Society International letter is for anyone who opposes the Canadian seal hunt:
Seals are dying needlessly for a dying industry. And sometimes we just need to take a look at our compassion and ethics – not our economics. It is well past the time for Canada’s commercial, non-Aboriginal seal hunt to end. Together, let’s protect our seals – now.
(Sources: http://www.harpseals.org ; http://www.ifaw.org/canada/get-involved/future-seals-and-sealers?ms=CONDG160305030&cid=701F0000001IWE5 ; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sheryl-fink/atlantic-seal-hunt_b_9611848.html ; http://www.hsi.org/world/canada/news/releases/2015/03/canada-seal-hunt-quota-statement-030215.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/ ; http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sealing/ )