Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seal hunt unjustifiable, says Green Party

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I'm posting a Green Party of Canada press release verbatim.
Seal hunt unjustifiable, says Green Party
OTTAWA – The Green Party today renewed its call for an immediate end to the commercial seal hunt, saying the hunt is impossible to justify on any basis and that successive governments have protected the hunt for far too long.

“The federal government has pulled out all the stops this year to keep the seal hunt afloat,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted on a grand show for the European Union, complete with an expensive propaganda campaign and lobbying effort. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has even gone so far as to arrest and detain a foreign vessel. I can’t recall the last time the DFO bothered to arrest a foreign ship for actually overfishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, which speaks to the DFO’s priorities.”

Ms. May said that the annual hunt is inherently inhumane, dangerous for workers, damaging to Canada's international reputation, produces little economic benefit to Atlantic communities and would cease to exist without massive government subsidies.

“Government propaganda and support for the seal hunt cannot be justified by economics,” said Ms. May. “The seal hunt accounts for less than one percent of Newfoundland’s economy, yet it is a huge drain on public coffers. For instance, the landed value of the 2007 seal kill was $12 million, but that year the federal government paid at least $3.4 million to rescue ice-locked sealers and more than twice that to compensate fishers affected by ice conditions, including those sealers. Taxpayers also foot the bill for aircraft used to locate seal nurseries and are led to the seals by Coast Guard icebreakers. Canadian tax dollars support this hunt, even though most Canadians favour ending it.

“This year, pelt prices are down, fuel costs are up and many sealers say it is not worthwhile to go to the ice floes. The European Union will bring down a ban on seal product imports this summer which will cripple the sealing industry. The clock is running out on this hunt, but the government can make the transition smoother by devising a strategy for those affected.

“The government should bite the bullet now, buy out sealing licenses and initiate negotiations with provincial and municipal governments in Atlantic Canada to find sustainable alternative livelihoods for sealers and their communities.”

The Green Party is proposing a generous compensation package for sealers coupled with ecotourism and seal watching tours to develop the economies of affected communities. Ms. May noted that ecotourism is more consistent with the goal of rehabilitating the ecosystem as a whole and that other measures, such as banning drag trawling, are also critical to preserving the regional ecosystem.
In the last election, the Greens lost some support in Newfoundland and Labrador for the anti-hunt stance. One GPC candidate quit to protest our party's line. Too bad. I'm proud that we are standing up for humane treatment of animals. I'm also happy that we're not afraid to take an unpopular stand when our principles are at stake.

Elizabeth did the right thing last week when she resigned her directorship of the Sea Shepherd Society. Paul Watson's callous remarks were not acceptable. The Green Party is built on Six Green Values.

The first one is Ecological Wisdom

"We acknowledge that human beings are part of the natural world and we respect the specific values of all forms of life, including non-human species."



Stephen K said...

Right on, JimBobby. I am getting tired of people getting all defensive about the seal hunt. There is no justification for this hunt. If it were for sustenance that would be one thing, but there is no justification for killing seals for the purpose of feeding the fashion fetishes of rich people.

Ryan said...

It's mostly arrogance on our part that this massive act of ecological destruction is justifiable in the name of "jobs" and because it's good for economic gain.

What ever is good for people (as lords with dominion over nature) is inherently good for everything.

Free the seals from patriarchy!

Anonymous said...

The hunt is not in fact "inherently inhumane", many people routinely perform "dangerous" jobs, lots of things Canada does screw up its' international reputation, and I'm afraid that people I know who work the hunt (as well as other hunts) each year and depend heavily on that income would disagree with May that it "produces little economic benefit to Atlantic communities and would cease to exist without massive government subsidies".

I remember the last time the save the seals crowd were successful in their work - the livelihoods of thousands of people was destroyed, I not only know some of them, but am related to them, and I saw the "boots on the groud" result of that success.

They didn't give a sh*t about that then, and they don't give it a thought now.

It's dirty easy for people like Elizabeth May, and people like her, to make such statements, her livelihood isn't on the line, and she's not potentially standing in a welfare line if things don't go her way is she?

What's a few more despondent people on the welfare role 'eh -- GO GREENS!!

PS: This is an issue that hits really close to home, on a very personal level, for me JB, so I'm not gonna mince words about it. If the Greens don't want to stand up for honest and hard working Canadians they've picked a good way of telling us.... and if they want to put thousands of honest and hard working people on the welfare role they've come up with a good plan for doing so.

And I'll take every possible opportunity to tell them that.

JimBobby said...

Well, SL, like on a few other issues, I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree.

The argument that these are honest, hardworking people is a bit specious. Farmers who grow corn for ethanol are also honest and hardworking. The problem is that their operations are leading to a worldwide food crisis. Honest and hardworking does not absolve responsibility. Auto plant worker manufacturing gas guzzling Lincoln Navigators are hardworking and honest, too.

Here in my county, we got 1300 tobacco farmers cryin' the blues and lookin' fer a billion bucks from Ottawa. They're hardworking and honest but, dang-it-all, they ain't gettin' much sympathy from me or anyone else.

The tar sands bunch are hardworking and honest, too.

You see, this is not a case of the Greens failing to stand up for honest and hardworking people. It's a matter of principle and ecological concern.

It's also a matter of economic commonsense.

The seal hunt is a the verge of collapse due to the EU getting ready to ban imports. This is because the European do not want to purchase products that are associated with animal cruelty. In business, it's important to deliver what the customer wants. The customers for seal products are mostly EU members and the Japanese. The Japanese may continue to purchase but the Europeans will not.

In calling for an end to the hunt, Lizzie has made concrete suggestions for alternative income from eco-tourism. She also proposed a generous compensation package. Seasonal unemployment benefits are not welfare and I think you're using a bit of loaded language yourself when you say the choices are between a continued hunt and welfare. It is a fact that the seal hunt is only responsible for 1% of the NL economy and it is a fact that the hunt relies on massive support from government to exist and for the market to prosper.

On both coasts, former whalers are leading whale-watching tours at $100 a pop. I went on one of those tours on the Johnstone Strait off Vancouver Island last year. Dang whales didn't show that day but the crew still got our money -- something that wouldn't have happened had they been relying on a kill to earn their wages.

I don't expect to change your mind and I respect your on-the-ice experience and connections. Thanks for the input.


Jennifer Smith said...

As a hunter, I have never had any problem with the seal hunt from an ethical or environmental standpoint. Sorry, but from everything I've seen the seals are killed about as quickly and cleanly as one can kill an animal, and they're hardly endangered.

That said, I am impressed to see Elizabeth May and the Green Party arguing against the hunt as being economically unfeasible, instead of relying on the usual handwringing over the poor wittle cute fuzzy seals.

Ok, there was a little of that... but her other arguments were far more coherent, even though I still disagree with many of them.

Wouldn't it be something to have an actual, rational debate on the seal hunt on those sorts of terms, instead of resorting to histrionics and lies and 20 year-old film footage?

Jennifer Smith said...

BTW, the eco-tourism idea gets points for creativity, but I sincerely doubt it would come anywhere near replacing the income from the seal hunt.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand how the seal hunt is in any way more cruel than the slaughtering of pigs or chickens or cows...just because your meat comes on a styrofoam plate and cling wrap cover doesn't mean it wasn't slaughtered like a seal. If you wanna talk inhumane... address the larger issues rather than nitpicking at a province's culture, history and for some, their livelihood.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood how farming meat is not much worse.

JimBobby said...

Farley Mowat recently answered readers' questions about the seal hunt for the Globe. He's been studying the hunt for 40 years and knows a lot more about it than I do. Here's what Mowat had to say about the seal hunt as it relates to farming and slaughtering of animals for meat. I'm copying the entire question and answer to avoid taking it out of context.

Graham Thomas from Canada: Mr. Mowat, thank you for joining this discussion on what is truly a high-profile Canadian issue. While I abhor senseless killing and am revolted by photos of seals being bludgeoned to death, I confess I feel the same when seeing slaughterhouses on TV.

One presumes that most of the country has reached this state of acceptance on the meat issue. Why is it wrong to murder seals when killing cattle of all ages is acceptable?

Mr. Mowat: We don't kill seals to eat them, at least we southerners don't. Only the Inuit do and that is legitimate. The killing of any living thing for subsistence reasons is abhorrent in many ways but it is part of the biological structure of life.

Some animals eat plants and some animals eat those animals. We wouldn't be here if we hadn't done that for generations. Killing animals en masse simply to make a profit is totally abhorrent. I will fight it to my last breath. If we take what we need to survive, to subsist, then we're in balance. If we start taking more than we need, for desire, for selfish purposes, then we're out of balance. We're committing a crime against life.

When Europeans first arrived on this coast, which is documented in my book Sea of Slaughter, roughly three centuries ago cod fish were so abundant. There's the famous story about Jacques Cartier lowering the baskets over the side of his boat and the oceans were swarming with life. Biologists estimate there must have been 30 and 50 million harp seals. There were God knows how many cod fish.

Humans have succeeded in reducing all larger forms of life in the ocean to their current state, including seals. The official seal killers claim there's five and a half million seals now. That's a gross exaggeration. Biologists who are not paid by the federal or Newfoundland government say that's it about half that many. Nature will look after balancing life in the ocean if we would stay the hell out of it. I'm really fed up to the teeth with human beings blaming other animals for the destructive propensity of our own species.

Mowat gives more answers to a wide variety of questions all on the seal hunt in the Globe feature.

Incidentally, he (and I) have no problem with the traditional Inuit seal hunt. It is the commercial hunt, where animals are taken for their pelts and flippers while the bulk of the carcass is discarded, with which Mowat has problems.


Scott in Montreal said...

Sounds like the market forces are taking hold. This is something you wish you could agree with everyone on. However, it strikes me as odd to argue against "inhumane" treatment for non-humans.

Anyway, I don't see this as a winning issue for the GPC and I'm sorry to see May wading in this stridently. Baby seals' pelts are all-natural after all, and one assumes those chic consumers will increasing turn to buying up fake furs - which of course requires resource extraction, manufacturing and all the energy use required, which then contributes to greenhouse gas production and pollution, which conceivably comes back to bite our full-grown seals in the butt, and on and on and on...

Farley Mowat put it nicely though, spelling out how the heart of the problem is our own capitalism, which pushes us to push the ecosystem off-balance.

Anonymous said...

glad to know that if the rest of the seal was just eaten by people, you'd all be fine! Hmmm, thats actually a great idea! Maybe I should start a seal meat market, wrap up the rests from the hunt and sell it in nice plastic wrap and styrofoam for all to enjoy. That'll make it ethical right?

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