Thursday, March 09, 2006

Commentary in Newsweek Regarding Canadian Seal Slaughter

I’m surprised to see a rag like Newsweek allowed this. Please read on.


The Economics of a Bloodbath
The annual baby-seal hunt is underway in Canada. Could devaluing these beautiful animals actually save them?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11659086/site/newsweek/

By Patti Davis
Newsweek
Updated: 4:53 p.m. ET March 3, 2006

March 3, 2006 - Despite mounting pressure to cancel the yearly seal hunt, in which hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals are killed simply for their pelts, the Canadian government is allowing the bloodbath to continue.

Between 2003 and 2005, an estimated 1 million seal pups were slaughtered according to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The kill levels are twice as high as they were in the 1960s when international outrage succeeded in closing down several markets for seal pelts. The United States banned the import of seal products in 1972, and the European Union agreed to a partial ban. Canada eventually banned the killing of “whitecoats” (baby seals) in 1987. But those white coats are replaced by spotted gray coats in a matter of weeks--at which time the seals are eligible for the hunt.

Last year alone, more than 315,000 seals were killed. Some environmentalists report that some of the animals are skinned alive and are left to die in agony. Canada’s claim that the hunt is regulated and monitored has been disputed every year by protesters who show up at the same time the sealers do and have witnessed what really goes on.

The hunt begins in March after females give birth to pups with soft plush fur. That fur is the reason that the ice floes turn red with blood. The defenseless pups, who have no way to escape the sealers’ clubs and rifles, are prized only for their pelts. Only for fashion statements.

Some people have held out hope that with a new prime minister, the annual hunt can be stopped. Stephen Harper has replaced Paul Martin, who was an uncompromising supporter of the hunt. As yet, though, a regime change hasn’t helped. There has been no indication that it will be canceled.

However, there is some good news. Italy has banned the import of seal products, and the British government is strongly considering doing the same. It’s clear that if compassion will not end this mass slaughter, maybe economics can. If no one is buying seal pelts, the pups (less than three months old) will not be clubbed, shot and skinned. Many might actually fulfill their life expectancy of 30 years.

On Thursday, Paul and Heather McCartney visited the Gulf of St. Lawrence to bring worldwide attention to the pups whose fate is in the hands of the Canadian government. Working with the Humane Society of the United States, they have stated their commitment to make this a global issue.

Predictably, sealers don’t appreciate the high-profile attention the McCartneys’ visit will bring to this issue. The Canadian press quoted Jack Troake, a 70-year-old sealer, who said, “It’s something we’ve done for 500 years. It’s helped to sustain us. We go to bed with a full stomach, a tight roof over our heads. It’s part of our culture, our history.”

Are we to actually believe that there is no other way for thousands of people to make a living? That all they are equipped to do is kill seal pups and skin them? And as far as traditions dating back hundreds of years, there are plenty of old traditions that have been banished as countries have grown more civilized: town lynchings, slavery, bleeding people with leeches, stoning women to death … to name a few.

In the end, supporters of the seal hunt may find that their worst enemy is global warming. Unseasonably warm temperatures have prevented the formation of many ice floes, which is where females go to give birth. There is extremely low ice cover in both the Gulf of St. Lawrence and waters northeast of Newfoundland, both primary breeding sites.

It would be nice if appealing to the hearts and compassion of human beings was enough. But some of earth’s inhabitants sadly only listen to money. Countries that are banning imports of seal products will probably make the most difference. Perhaps the only way to save these beautiful creatures is to render them economically worthless. It’s a strange world when the only way to save something valuable is by devaluing it.

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