Canadian government declares Seal Products Day

Canadian politicians have inexplicably chosen to focus on seal “products” rather than the people, culture, and traditions that have been historically involved in seal hunting.The following blog first appeared on HuffPost on May 11, 2017. --The eds.

ICYMI: and of course, you did miss it… almost everyone did. Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day was at the bottom of the order paper, not expected to reappear for months.

But once again the Liberal government has stealthily rammed a bill through the House of Commons, and Canada will now add May 20 to its list of National Days. That’s right, nestled amongst a calendar of dates devoted primarily to recognition of historical figures, the solemn remembrance of military battles, and raising awareness for illnesses, Parliament in all its wisdom has inaugurated a day glorifying the annual slaughter of seal pups.

Although the purpose of National Seal Products Day is supposedly to celebrate the importance of the seal hunt for Canada’s Indigenous people and coastal communities, politicians have inexplicably chosen to focus on seal “products” rather than the people, culture, and traditions that have been historically involved in seal hunting.

And if the “debate” that has accompanied this bill is any indication, National Seal Products Day is far more likely to be a day of falsehoods, finger-pointing and fear-mongering, albeit dressed up in a fur coat.

First come the falsehoods. Although the Liberal government claims it values science, several MPs seem to have missed this memo and continue to claim that harp seals are “overpopulated” (science says they aren’t), that they threaten cod stocks (science says they don’t), and that the ecosystem is “completely out of whack” (it’s not, and in fact, cod stocks are recovering quite nicely in the presence of seals – perhaps even because of seals).

Then there is the finger pointing and fault finding: the whining about the “unfair publicity” over the sealing industry’s terrible image, and the complaints of the “unfairness” of countries that ban seal products.

Spoiler alert: The commercial seal hunt has a terrible image because terrible things happen in the course of the annual slaughter. Seals sliced open while alive and conscious [warning: graphic]. Their skulls smashed with hakapiks, and left to choke and suffocate in their own blood. Pups hooked in the face as they helplessly attempt to defend themselves.

This is not “misinformation.” This is fact. These things have happened; I have seen them for myself. And I share the opinion of numerous veterinary experts that these atrocities will continue to happen for as long as the commercial seal slaughter exists.

Contrary to several MPs’ grievances, the numerous countries that have banned seal products are not doing so to pass “judgment” on Canadian culture. They are banning seal products because (unlike most of the politicians responsible for Seal Products Day) they have viewed the video evidence from Canada’s East coast seal hunt, they have read the scientific reports, and they have determined they do not want products from certain types of seal hunts in their marketplace. The World Trade Organization has ruled that they have the right to ban seal products, and it’s time Canadian politicians stopped their whining about it.

And finally, the fear. Alarmists like MP Robert Sopuk (CPC, Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa) are now so entirely predictable in their response that it doesn’t matter what issue is being discussed. It’s the classic slippery slope fallacy: Anyone with a desire to improve conditions for non-human life on this planet is obviously part of some subversive, radical agenda to end all forms of animal use and resource extraction. His statements border on the ridiculous and should be easy enough for anyone with a modicum of critical thinking to dismiss… and yet this type of thinking persists in Parliament.

It’s enough to make a compassionate Canadian want to throw their hands up in despair. What do we do with a government that refuses to update Criminal Code legislation that allows bestiality, but will fast track a bill so that they can wear furry bow ties once a year?

Canada is clearly out of step with the international community when it comes to animal protection. For those of us concerned with the conservation and welfare of all life on this planet, it if often frustrating, if not downright depressing. In times like these, it can be helpful (and indeed, necessary) to look elsewhere in the world to see the positive change that is happening for animals. France, for example, just passed a ban on the keeping and breeding of cetaceans in captivity last week. Meanwhile in Canada, Senator Don Plett argues against Bill S-203, claiming that captive whales living in the equivalent of a bathtub live longer, healthier, and happier and less stressful lives than their counterparts in the wild. South of the border, a bipartisan bill to end the cruel practice of shark finning has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives. A similar bill to end the import of shark fins, S-238, has yet to be debated in the Canadian Senate, but it too is likely to face a phalanx of falsehoods, finger pointing, and fear.

We must not give up fighting for what is right. We must not let fear win. Please continue to let your Member of Parliament know that you want to see stronger protections for animals in Canada. Together we can make a difference - for all the animals.


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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations