“You Europeans should mind your own business”
I came across this statement recently as I was trawling through the fiery debates on the Sky News discussion board. After a little more browsing, I saw that this is a sentiment shared by many Canadians. After all, goes the argument, Europeans cull lots of animals including deer, bears, and foxes. They should deal with their own problems first and let poor, rural Canadians continue to eke out a meagre income by killing seals.
Well, as a Canadian who lives in Europe, I find this proposition a bit mystifying.
After all, don’t Europeans, Canadians and Americans all share a common cultural heritage that says that causing injury to another creature in such a way that is cruel is morally objectionable? In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed, whether in Europe or North America, to find anybody who could watch a three-month-old infant seal shot or clubbed and left to slowly die in a pool of its own blood and not be sickened. It’s no surprise, then, that more than seven out of ten people in Europe and also in Canada are opposed to the hunt. In fact, I know many Newfoundlanders who loudly protest the hunt.
The differences between the Canadian seal hunt, a commercial hunt motivated purely by profit and the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world, and other types of culls are obvious. The Canadian hunt takes place over a huge area, in a harsh and unstable environment, and over a short period of time. Sealers have two choices: to stay ship-bound and try to shoot the tiny seals from moving vessels while the seals bob in the ocean on ice floes, or else to slip and slide their way across the ever-shifting ice to club the seals to death. Both of these options mean that the likelihood that the seals are actually dead before they are skinned is extremely small.
I agree that fishermen in Newfoundland face an unhappy situation. Over decades, they’ve seen their cod stocks decline to almost zero. Of course, most people agree that this is almost certainly because year on year, they and other fishermen ignored warnings from the scientific community and over-fished their stocks. Now, they increasingly turn to killing seals to supplement their incomes.
Follow this trajectory into the future and what do we see? Species after species killed to extinction in order to satisfy the short-term economic needs of fishermen. What’s next after the seals? Polar bears?
It’s time for the Canadian Government to stop it’s short-sighted policy of “buying off” the provinces with subsidies that support unsustainable industries and take a meaningful, rational approach to investment that will benefit the environment and Canada’s rural communities for decades to come.
-A Canadian in Europe