IFAW demands apology from Canadian politician

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Yarmouth Port, MA
Today IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) demanded an apology from Canada’s Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, for false comments made on a CNN talk show. An official letter was issued from the CEO of IFAW to Premier Williams. The full text of that letter is below:
Dear Premier Williams,
 
Important issues surrounding Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt merit your urgent attention. They also deserve a commitment to honesty and respect for the facts that were not in evidence during your appearance on Larry King Live, Friday evening, March 3, 2006. I write to reject and correct several of the many false assertions you made during that broadcast.
 
It is difficult to know where to begin, but I must take issue in particular with your statements concerning the organization it is my privilege to lead, IFAW -- the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org). Founded in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1969, IFAW was the first international animal welfare and conservation organization to draw Canadian and international public attention to Canada’s commercial seal hunt and IFAW has staunchly opposed the commercial hunt—now the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world—ever since.   
 
In the course of your interview with Mr. King, you alleged several times that IFAW representatives, veterinarians and other experts have said the seal hunt is humane. Nothing could be further from the truth and you will find no record anywhere to this effect. Despite tireless efforts by your government and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there is not a single reputable "expert" or "veterinary group" that has observed the hunt and called it humane. Almost four decades of observing and documenting the commercial seal hunt have led IFAW experts to conclude it is an inherently cruel and abhorrent slaughter, one that gravely compromises not only the welfare of seals but also the safety and well being of the hunters.
 
So many groups across Canada and worldwide oppose Canada's seal hunt it can be difficult to keep track of them all. But in defending the slaughter Friday evening you said "veterinarians that were hired by the World Wildlife Fund said the [hunt] is conducted in a humane way."  WWF and any veterinarians it may have hired can speak for themselves. But the report they produced does not call the hunt humane. It actually puts forward no fewer than 11 recommendations to make the hunt humane (see http://www.ivwg.org, page 5). IFAW’s supporters and others around the world would nonetheless welcome your response to these recommendations.
 
I am utterly at a loss as to how to respond to your suggestions that the seal hunt is actually an intervention to save seals from starvation, or that products from this commercial slaughter are used for shelter and fuel, except to say that I would welcome any evidence you have to back up these ludicrous assertions. 

Finally, you sought, on this internationally broadcast CNN program to link IFAW to FBI terrorist watch lists. Like most of your statements that evening, this one is utterly at odds with the facts. It is also slanderous, and millions of people heard you say it. IFAW is not without its critics, but no one has ever put forward such an allegation.  
 
In fact, IFAW and specifically our efforts to end the Canadian seal hunt are supported across the political spectrum in the United States. Given your interest in the U.S. government's perspective on IFAW you may be interested to learn that IFAW last year leveraged some $1.2 million dollars, including $600,000 in direct U.S. government funding, to assist New England fishermen with their animal welfare practices and provide them with state-of-the-art fishing gear.  Last time we checked, the U.S. government wasn’t funding terrorist organizations. You will be hearing more from us on this matter.
 
Reasonable people can disagree, and I would be pleased to meet with you at any time—in public or in private—to review and discuss these issues in good faith. But it is regrettable that the truth has become the first victim of this year's commercial seal hunt and that the blow was struck by the Premier of Newfoundland. This important issue, IFAW and our supporters around the world, and the good people of Canada and Newfoundland deserve better. And IFAW deserves an apology.
 
Sincerely,
 
Fred O'Regan
President, International Fund for Animal Welfare

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Experts

Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union