Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coming Canadian Baby Seal Slaughter

Yep, Canada’s annual show of the lowest of human actions – violent, senseless slaughter – the baby Seal slaughter will be starting soon. I will post more when it is very near. For now, here is a great article that exposes the truth behind the slaughter. Good reading for all, including animal haters.



Frequently Asked Questions
Answered by Paul Watson

Q: I thought the Seal Hunt was shut down several decades ago - in the 1980's?

Paul Watson: The commercial hunt was shut down in 1983 after the European Union banned the seal pelts from market in Europe. The hunt was never shut down completely. An average of 60,000 seals were killed each year between 1984 and 1994. In 1995, the commercial hunt was brought back when a Newfoundlander named Brian Tobin became the Minister of Fisheries. This was two years after the cod fishery collapsed due to over-fishing. The fishermen blamed the seals for the decline of the cod and demanded a kill. Since 1994, the kill quota has risen each year. The kill for 2003 is 375,000 harps seals, the largest quota ever allocated by the Canadian government. Still the Newfoundlanders are not satisfied and are demanding that even more seals be killed. Some Newfoundland politicians have called for eradication. Greenpeace was one of the organizations opposing the hunt between 1976 and 1982. Although I was the Expedition Leader and organizer of the 1st Greenpeace campaign to the ice, it is a mistake to credit Greenpeace with ending the hunt. There were many other organizations involved including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Fund for Animals and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In 1984, Greenpeace changed it's policy and has refrained from opposition to the hunt.

Q: What happens to the seal meat after they are killed?

Paul Watson: Most of the meat is wasted and also left on the ice. Some if it is sold to fur farms and some is ground up into animal feed. A few thousand seal flippers are sold for human consumption in Newfoundland. There is a limited market for the seal penis to the Far East as some sort of voodoo quack remedy for impotence.

Q: How do they kill the seals?

Paul Watson: Most of the younger seals are killed with clubs or hakapiks in order to not downgrade their pelts with a bullet hole. Since older seals are faster, more aggressive, and can swim, most are shot at a distance with high powered rifles to limit their efforts at escape. (unless it's a clean shot, most wounded seals will head for the nearest open water where they often will simply slip away under the ice and perish.)

Some seals are caught in nets and die from drowning. Many seals are run down in the ice, especially by the Canadian government ice-breakers.
credit Bob Talbot

Q: Who kills seals?

Paul Watson: There are no indigenous peoples involved in the East coast Canadian seal hunt. Seals hunted by Inuit or Native people in the North are taken in the arctic and are primarily ringed seals. The Harp and Hood seals are hunted in the Gulf of St.Lawrence by residents of the Magdalen Islands in Quebec. These are French speaking people. The other location is called the Newfoundland Front in the Atlantic and this hunt is conducted by Newfoundlanders. As a point of interest there are no native people in Newfoundland. The last member of the Beothuk nation, the indigenous peoples of Newfoundland, died in 1912. The Newfoundlanders had a bounty on the Beothuk and most were slain by MicMac Indian bounty hunters from New Brunswick and Quebec. Newfoundlanders also drove the Newfoundland wolf, the walrus, and the Labrador duck to extinction and extirpated the polar bear, and the pilot whale from Newfoundland territory....

Q: Is there a blackmarket for any seal products?

Paul Watson: With the exception of the seal penis bone market in Asia, there is not really a black market for seal products because there is little demand for them. However, whenever a sealer exceeds his quota, there are no legal consequences. Sealers in Canada have a license to torture, mutilate, and kill over quota without fear of repercussions.

Q: If the majority of Canadians are against the seal hunt, why don't the policticans stop it?

Paul Watson: The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a bureaucracy run primarily by Newfoundlanders. They set the policy. Politicians have basically rubber-stamped the wishes of the bureaucrats. Most of the Fisheries Ministers have hailed from Newfoundland. Another problem is that there is much competition between the political parties to control Newfoundland and any party that opposes the seal hunt is out of the running. Therefore the parties have all agreed to support the hunt, leaving no alternatives for people who are opposed to the hunt. Even the Green Party of Newfoundland supports the seal kill for fear of losing votes.

Q: Does Canada benefit from the seal hunt?

Paul Watson: Canada receives a great deal of bad press because of the seal slaughter. It does not receive much in the way of income and the seal hunt contributes nothing to the Gross National Product of the country. On the contrary, the hunt is a negative drain on the economy because of tax dollars spent to subsidize it.

Q: There's a war going on and other animal species going extinct all around the world. Why should I care about Canadian seals?

Paul Watson: There is always a war going on someplace. People are continually fighting amongst themselves. There is also another war going on and that is the war against nature and against wildlife. All marine mammals are faced with extinction because of hunting, pollution, and destruction of habitat and carrying capacity. There is no justification for waging this, the world's largest slaughter of a marine mammalian species. In addition the hunt is cruel, economically wasteful, and plain and simply obscene.
credit Rei O'Hara

Q: What can I do about it?

Sea Shepherd: Get involved. Join the Sea Shepherd's Cyber Seal Navy or make a donation to help get our ship to the east coast of Canada in 2005.

Samantha E., a student at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, had some very good questions about the Canadian seal hunt. Following are her questions along with Captain Paul Watson's answers . . .

Friday, February 11th, 2005

Original email intro from Samantha:

"I am a geography student at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada who was asked to write a paper about the seal hunt. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me that would help me greatly. I have a due date of the 24th of February so if you could reply to me before then, it would be a great help. If you could give me a little information about yourself (such as name, age, location and job title) that would be helpful as well."

Dear Samatha, here are some answers to your questions.

Paul Watson background intro: I am the Founder and current Executive Director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I am also currently a national director of the Sierra Club in the USA. I was a co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation and I was the person who initiated and led the first Greenpeace campaigns to protect seals in 1976 and 1977. I am also the author of Seal Wars published in 2002 by Key Porter. I am also an eighth generation Maritimer raised in a fishing village in New Brunswick.

1. Seals eat fish as a main source of food, so do you think the hunting of seals would affect the number of fish found in the ocean by a great amount?

Paul Watson: Only 3% of a harp's seals diet is made up from Cod. There is a very complex food chain in the ocean and this diversity and interdependence has worked very well throughout time. The cod was not destroyed by the harp seals. The species was depleted by human fisheries.

At the time of Jacques Cartier, there was no shortage of fish and there were ten times as many seals. The fact is that the largest predator of cod aside from people are other species of fish, the very fish that harp seals prey upon. When you lower harp seal populations you increase predatory fish populations thereby contributing to a further decline in the cod. Rather than more seals less cod, it is more seals = more cod and less seals = less cod.

2. Would it make an impact on the fishery if we didn't hunt them? Would the fish stocks grow or remain stable?

Paul Watson: The seal populations would of course grow and that would be a good thing. As with all species within a healthy eco-system, the population would stabilize naturally.

3. Fisherman here in Newfoundland turned to the seal hunt when the fishery was closed down. So if they closed the seal industry as well, what would happen to the jobs then?

Paul Watson: The fishermen of Newfoundland survived just fine with traditional methods of fishing. It was the introduction of heavy gear technology that has destroyed the fishing communities of Newfoundland. The government of Canada mismanaged the fisheries and the corporations were greedy. Instead of targeting and scapegoating the seals, the fishermen should have targeted those responsible - the governments, the corporations and the foreign offshore operations.

The sad fact is that the cod fishery will not make a come back in our lifetimes. The fishing sector in the Maritimes has become a glorified welfare system. The Maritimes are now the most heavily subsidized economic region in the world. We would be better off and we would actually save more money to pay the fishermen not to fish and seal. As for jobs. There has never been a guarantee of jobs in a world of diminishing resources. Newfoundland is the victim of its own actions in violating the three basic laws of ecology - The law of diversity, the law of interdependence and the law of finite resources.

4. What is your opinion on the aboriginals use of seals? Is it wrong for them to kill seals and use all parts for their own personal needs? What about when they decide to make a profit from these seals?

Paul Watson: There is no aboriginal sealing in Newfoundland. There is in Labrador of course. Aboriginal sealing has never been a major concern. There is of course aboriginal sealing and there is aboriginal sealing. If it is done for subsistence necessity that is one thing but much of it is done to provide pelts for the fur industry. In opposing the fur industry, groups do of course oppose aboriginal sealing. But the fact remains that the fur industry has driven numerous species to extinction, extirpation and depletion. When aboriginal communities ally themselves with the fur industry they place themselves in a position of opposition to us.

5. Is boycotting all Canadian seafood a valid way to fight this argument? What about the fisherman and fish plant worker's losing their job's for having no involvement in the seal hunt simply because of the boycott? Is this fair?

Paul Watson: Is it fair for grown men to bash newborn animals over the head with a club? Is it fair for sealers to slaughter pups before the eyes of their mothers? Is it fair for humanity to disrupt the ecological harmony in the oceans? In fact is anything that humans do to the Earth, to other species and to each other - fair?

The fact is that the Canadian government refuses to communicate with seal hunt opponents, refuses to make concessions and arrogantly ups the quota and Ministers like John Efford brag about finding a final solution and call for extermination. Is that fair?

When all avenues of communication are cut off, the only means of communication is confrontation, controversy and conflict. Government and Industry understand money i.e. profit and loss. Therefore the only logical course of action is economic pressure. A boycott of seafood is a legitimate tactics designed to achieve a reduction or an elimination of seal killing. I think it is 100% fair.

6. Is there a way that both sides can come to a compromise on this argument? If so, how?

Paul Watson: The governments of Canada and Newfoundland have never shown a willingness to compromise. The only alternative for seal defenders is a no compromise economic campaign to force the closure of this obscene and cruel annual slaughter. I would not have compromised with the Nazi over the fate of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and I do not believe in compromising with the thugs who kill these seals.

7. Do you think the quota should be increased or decreased?

Paul Watson: I think the quota should be eliminated and that the seal hunt be ended permanently.

8. Do you think there is there a humane way to kill seals?

Paul Watson: No

9. Do you happen to know the price of seal pelts from 1990 to present day and what the quotas were? If not, can you direct me as to where I could find them?

Paul Watson: The government of Canada DFO has these figures. I am about as interested in the price of seal pelts as I would be about the price of human skins. The price is of no concern to me. My concern is for the cruelty and the killing inflicted upon these defenseless creatures by the ignorant and the arrogant.

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