Government of Canada Spends Tens of Thousands on Anti-Seal Social Media
Documents recently released by the Government of Canada portray a dismal picture of the taxpayer funded, $75,000 seal-slaugher propaganda initiative cryptically referred to as “Social Media Reputation and Online Issues Management.”
Expressing concern about the massive number of online conversations critical of its seal slaughter, the Canadian government undertook a project using social media channels, such as blogs and twitter, to “correct misinformation” about the seal hunt.
While this sounds like an honourable goal, the project appears to have only addressed information not supportive of Canada’s seal slaughter, while the reams of misinformation online in favour of the seal hunt was presumably left uncorrected. This is not surprising, since some of the more blatant falsehoods such as “only mature, adult seals are killed” or “98% of seals are killed in an acceptably humane manner” can be shown to have originated from government officials themselves!
The documents, while incomplete, describe government employees’ attempts to engage with cyber-activists who dared to speak out against Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. Blogs, discussion posts and tweets were compiled, analyzed, and evaluated to determine a proper response. In some cases, the government-approved talking points were delivered or links to government websites were offered, but others were given a “pass.”
While it made perfect sense for officials not to intervene in some cases - such as engaging in already-heated discussions or trying to convince those adamantly against the cruel slaughter - some of the other reasons for avoiding certain conversations remain suspect..
For example, reasons such as “clarifying quotas would be inflammatory,” “impossible to effectively refute comments,”and “difficult to counter factually” imply that even the government recognizes their position might not be as solid as they would like. In one instance, the suggestion to refer an online contributor to the Scientific Opinion of the European Food Safety Authority – arguably the most recent and comprehensive examination of commercial seal hunts – was dismissed, with the comment that the report “can present more risks than rewards” for the Canadian government’s pro-seal hunt position.
In reading through the files, it’s hard not to feel a tiny bit of sympathy for the government employees in their attempts to defend the indefensible. A lack of familiarity with the issue and inability to find the source of an infamous quote by former Newfoundland Fisheries Minister that he would like to see every seal “killed or sold, or destroyed or burned. I do not care what happens to them.... the more they kill the better I will love it” led government employees to suspect it was fabricated. [Hint: Check Newfoundland and Labrador Hansard, May 4 1998 – the quote is real - we couldn’t make up something that crazy if we tried!]
At one point, in reference to an online video of the hunt, a government employee noted that the so-called “three step process” of stunning, checking for unconsciousness, and bleeding out was not being followed: “I don’t really see the 3 step process in action… In fact, we seem to see no bleeding at all. And in one shot, the seal is dragged to the boat from the ice 20 feet away with some kind of rope (harpooned?)… If in reality, sealers are not following the 3 step process, perhaps we should not emphasize it in our responses”
Wow! If only all Canadian politicians were so enlightened! If only some of them took the time to watch video of the seal hunt and see what the the rest of us have known all along. We might actually prevent some of the real misinformation being spouted by our politicians, such as Fisheries Minister Gail Shea’s statement that she “assumes” fishermen have to go over the side of the boat to retrieve a seal. [Another hint: They don’t. Seals are allowed to be impaled through the face and dragged on steel hooks before a test for unconsciousness is applied – something veterinarians say is inhumane and inconsistent with the application of the 3-step process.]
But no, Canada’s politicians refuse to come to terms with the reality of this inherently inhumane and unnecessary seal slaughter, clinging desperately to their talking points and downing seal meat (but only in front of the camera, thank you very much!) to demonstrate their complete inability to stand up to pressure from the sealing industry.
If the government of Canada truly wanted to help fishermen – and benefit all Canadians in the process – they would find a graceful way out of this internationally abhorred practice. Efforts to propagate the government’s seal hunt spin online are a waste of time and money. Government support should be directed towards fairly compensating sealers and developing new opportunities for Atlantic Canadians, not their futile attempts to keep a dying sealing industry on life support.