IFAW's Sheryl Fink rebuts Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea's attack on NGOs

The original article appeared on PEICanada.com...

How disappointing it is to see more whining and complaining about NGOs from Fisheries Minister Gail Shea. If she’s not careful, her term will be up before she even begins to address the real issues behind Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

I invite Minister Shea to view the seal hunt footage taken in 2007/2008/2009 by sealing observers, myself included. This is the same footage shown to European parliamentarians. This footage is not outdated - as the minister alleges - nor does it contain images of whitecoat seals.

Europeans know perfectly well the seals killed in the current hunt are not whitecoats. They also know it is irrelevant. When we talk about the difference between a two-week-old whitecoat, and the same pup once it starts to moult a few days later, colour doesn’t matter does it?

This footage shows current and graphic examples of inhumane killing during Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Seal pups are shown hooked in the face and dragged across the ice, while clearly conscious and struggling. It shows seals shot, wounded and left to suffer for prolonged periods.

I challenge Minister Shea to face all Canadians and tell them that what she sees on those videos is “humane,” that it is “professional,” and she is still proud to “stand up” for the sealing industry.

I invite her to explain to all Canadians why her government continues to waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars annually - the WTO challenge alone will cost an estimated $10 million - to support an industry that brought in little more than a million dollars last year, provides only a few days work, and tarnishes other industries such as tourism and fisheries. Taxpayer dollars wasted on trying to keep the sealing industry alive would be better spent on finding economically viable alternatives to sealing.

Meanwhile, Minister Shea’s continued enthusiasm for criticizing animal welfare NGOs simply demonstrates that she has no good arguments to defend Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

Perhaps that’s because there aren’t any?

Sheryl Fink
Senior Research and Projects Specialist
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Guelph, Ontario

Here is the text of the original article:


Shea slams anti-sealing organizations

Wed, 10/21/2009 - 05:05
By Jim Brown
Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea had some harsh words for anti-sealing
organizations, accusing them of using deceptive advertising to sway public
Minister Shea’s comments came at Thursday’s meeting of the Canadian Council
of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, held in Mill River. Minister Shea and
PEI’s Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair  co-chaired the meeting.
“Personally I think these non-governmental organizations use this (seal
hunt) as a fund raiser for their organizations. I have an understanding these
people get paid quite a hefty salary to wage these campaigns,” said Minister
Shea, who stressed many NGOs “do good work.”
But at the same time certain wildlife conservation groups “should be held
to account to at least tell the truth.”
Minister Shea said although white coats are no longer hunted, their images
continue to play a big role in anti-sealing campaigns.
“I was in Europe and I found several examples of misinformation. They were
still using the whitecoat seal pups as a way to get to the hearts of Europeans”
and to mislead them, said Minister Shea.
Over the past 30 years a number of changes have been made to the hunt to
make it more humane, she said.
“We have changed regulations to ensure we have a humane seal harvest,” said
Minister Shea. She added new regulations were evaluated by an independent panel
of veterinarians.  
The plunging fortunes of the East Coast seal fishery and the EU boycott of
seal products commanded a great deal of discussion among ministers at Thursday’s
Minister Shea said the NGOs launched a fierce campaign to convince Europe’s
parliamentarians to ban the import of seal products and she conceded that
campaign was well-funded.
“We had our own public relations campaign, but I admit we probably didn’t
spend as much as the non-governmental organizations did on their campaign over
the last number of years. 
“European parliamentarians told me privately that they voted to ban seal
products from Europe because it was the wish of their constituents, not because
it was the right thing to do,” she said, adding, “We have said repeatedly we
will stand up for Canadian sealers, Canadian seal families and the Canadian seal
That means trying to develop new markets outside Europe as well as file
complaints to international trading bodies.
“We will go to the World Trade Organization with this complaint because we
believe it (ban) violates trade rules. We will continue to support diversifying
our markets.
Minister Shea said there was significant research (being undertaken) on the
potential medical benefits of seals. 
One promising area involves transplanting seal heart valves into humans
“which would be quite a medical marvel,” she said.
Minister Shea said there were “a lot of exciting things happening in the
seal industry” that her government would continue to support.
In the meantime, Canada’s fisheries’ ministers are investigating ways to
deal effectively with “nuisance seals that reside on the east coast year
“The population seems to be exploding. They are affecting all types of
fisheries. They are smashing up lobster traps, they are eating fish that are
caught on hooks,” she said, adding seals are taking a toll on dwindling cod
stocks, “which don’t seem to be rebuilding.”
The Minister said her government was planning “a multi-year project” to
reduce the population of nuisance seals.
“Applications are being accepted for both short-term and long-term

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