Seal Hunt is About Playing Political Gamesmanship
It has long been said that in war,
truth is the first casualty, and that certainly applies to the highly
political "seal war" that currently rages in Canada and Europe.
An illustrative example is provided by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette’s letter in the March 25 edition of Embassy
in which she attempts to demonize organizations that hold views
contrary to her own. When opponents use such tactics—as the Liberals
and their former leader know only too well—the facts invariably take a
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is, as our name indicates,
an animal welfare organization and, to use the senator's word, it is
manipulative to suggest otherwise. IFAW is not on a campaign to "force
the world to become vegetarian." IFAW is on a campaign to end Canada's
commercial seal slaughter.
While the senator may be comfortable using the
well-documented and long-standing Canadian government strategy of
"play[ing] the Nunavut Inuit card," the fact remains that Inuit are not
involved in Canada's commercial seal hunt. And, contrary to her
assertion, IFAW is not opposed to subsistence hunting by Inuit or other
First Nations' people.
The senator is nonetheless correct in saying that hunting
methods have been studied by independent veterinarians. But what she
forgets to add is that the Canadian government has largely ignored
their recommendations. Even in the case of the WWF-funded veterinary
working group—a government favourite—only one of its 11 recommendations
from 2005 has been implemented. DFO even admitted in December 2008 that
Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations would not qualify for a derogation
under the European Union's proposed trade ban in seal products. The
minor "tweaks"—DFO's own characterization—to those regulations made
earlier this year do not change that conclusion.
Of course, there is moral judgment involved in IFAW's
opposition to Canada's commercial seal hunt, just as there are moral
judgements expressed throughout the senator's diatribe. If she really
thinks that she can refute "point by point" documented statements that
Canada's commercial seal hunt is economically insignificant, subsidized
by governments, poorly monitored and regulated, and that harp seals are
threatened by climate change, then, please, let's have the evidence.
Contrary to another of her accusations, IFAW actually does believe the
truth is important and it's time that the senator, and others, stopped
The real "tree" hiding the forest here is Canadian
politics. How else can you explain the ongoing spectacle of our major
political parties desperately trying to outdo each other in their
misguided enthusiasm for killing seals? But just beneath the surface of
this international embarrassment lurks an inconvenient truth. Theirs is
not a heroic campaign to defend Canada's commercial seal hunt or the
"livelihood" of East coast sealers. It is a political competition for a
few seats in Atlantic Canada.
And the only folks who really make a decent living
supporting the seal hunt are politicians from Atlantic Canada. That's
why East coast ministers, MPs and senators from all four political
parties in Parliament are far more fanatical about killing seals than
are most sealers themselves.
The time has come for our political parties to stop
misrepresenting verifiable facts, stop misusing taxpayer dollars, and
stop wreaking havoc on seals and the marine environment. The time has
come for our MPs and senators to show some responsibility and
leadership, and begin representing the majority of Canadians who oppose
Canada's commercial seal slaughter. The time has come for investment in
viable, full-time employment opportunities appropriate for the 21st Century. That's what those still involved in Canada's commercial seal hunt really need and deserve.
David Lavigne is the International Fund for Animal Welfare's science adviser. This piece ran in the April 15, 2009 online version of Embassy Magazine.