Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Seal Hunt Not Worth the Fight - Time to Move On

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, I'm gonna wade into the seal hunt issue. Over to StageLeft, there's a comments section gabfest goin' on an' I left me a bigass comment. I'm recycling that comment here.

How about we look at the economics of the hunt?

Back in 2007, the landed value of the seal hunt was only a paltry $12 million. 2008 was about half of that. In 2007, the federal government paid about $3.4 million to rescue sealers from the ice. I don’t know how much we spent in 2008. Taxpayers also pay for aircraft used to locate seals and commercial sealers are led to the seals by Coast Guard icebreakers. Canadian tax dollars support the hunt and the massive PR campaign that was mounted to counter EU opposition.

Despite all the money we spent, the EU still voted for a ban. Now, we’re going to throw good money after bad by mounting a legal challenge at the WTO. At least the lawyers are still making money.

When the banks need money, we bail them out with billions of public dollars. When the dumbass, gas-guzzlin’ auto industry needs money, we bail them out with billions more. When the dirty tar sands need money, we give them billions in tax cuts and bogus R&D grants to fantasyland carbon capture schemes. When tobacco farmers can’t make it, we cough up $288 million in buyout money.

We sell a lot of other stuff to EU customers and our protestation over the seal hunt could well cause a larger boycott of Canadian products of all types. When the US banned seal imports, we didn’t mount a legal challenge, even though the US was formerly the biggest customer. We understood the possible trade ramifications. We’d better wake up and understand what a blanket European boycott of Canadian products could mean.

The seal hunt may be unjustly portrayed as inherently cruel. However, we fought the PR battle on that score and, like it or not, we lost. Public opinion is against the hunt. Also, contrary to what Doug Newton said, the EU Parliament is an elected body.

Even without the EU ban, the market for pelts was down so much in recent years that many sealers didn’t bother going out and risking their necks this past year. I suggest that the EU ban is less a case of an authoritarian imposition than it is a case of the EU Parliament reflecting the wishes of EU citizens. They spoke with their pocketbooks already.

If we simply didn’t fight the ban and gave up the logistical and search & rescue support we lavish on this industry, we’d have millions to invest into alternatives or to simply dole out to the out of work sealers. Instead, we’re planning to spend good dollars fighting a fight we cannot possibly win.

I have no opposition on humanitarian grounds and I understand and appreciate the argument that seals compete with humans for fish. Nevertheless, the public relations war is over and we lost. Time to move on.

BTW, I killed 5 mice in the past 36 hours. There is no market for mouse pelts or mouse meat so I tossed them in the trash. If the seals are pests to the fishing industry, I have no problem with the fishing industry financing a cull. We’ve culled deer down here on Long Point when they became too populous.

Something that I wonder about, though… Back when Cabot sailed into the Grand Banks, the cod were so plentiful they scooped them up with buckets. There was no commercial seal hunt at that time. Who is to blame for cod stock depletion? Seals or human over-fishing?

I think we can develop a Canadian market for Inuit seal products. I think the commercial sealers are already accustomed to taking handouts and giving them each a couple thousand bucks would be much more cost-effective than flogging the dead horse at the WTO.