Seal hunt letter from Bill Maher: Bob Rae missed the point

Bill Maher wrote to the interim leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, Bob Rae, in early July and the two have been having a debate of sorts that’s being played out in Huffington Post Canada. Maher wrote to Rae about Canada’s commercial seal hunt, expecting the Liberals to do better than the Conservatives in their blind support of the industry. Sadly, the response was typical of what’s usually seen from politicians: excuses and sad attempts to deflect from the issues at hand.

The seal hunt is an unnecessary, outdated practice with little economic value. Willfully ignoring this fact, the majority of Canadian politicians continue to support the hunt in attempt to garner favour in Atlantic Canada, as Maher points out.  But when the leader of a political party justifies the reputation-staining, taxpayer-supported slaughter of tens of thousands of seals with arguments of “culture and tradition,” accompanied by weak lamentations that the practice is “being singled out unfairly”- accepting such an excuse would prevent action against any atrocity to humans or animals - it is time for Canadians to sit up and ask what kind of Kool Aid they are drinking up in Ottawa.

Despite decades of political posturing and tens of millions in wasted tax dollars, government support of the seal hunt has failed. There are 33 countries that now ban the trade in seal products, most notably the 27 Member States of the EU, Russia (which reportedly represented approximately 90% of the export market for Canada’s seal fur) and the USA (Canada’s closest trading partner). An agreement between Canada and China to allow edible seal products to be exported to China has not been ratified, and there are reports of China considering banning seal products as well. Frankly, it seems unlikely that the 2012 hunt would have occurred at all without a $3.6 million bailout from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The political excuses for continuing this unnecessary slaughter are getting noticeably thin on the ground. “Tradition” does not justify the slaughter of newly weaned animals so that their skins can be stockpiled. There are plenty of traditions that are no longer justified or socially acceptable today, and the killing of seals pups in attempt to encourage the international wildlife trade should join this list.  The sooner the better, for seals, the few remaining sealers, and for Canadians of all political stripes.


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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