Canada's annual seal slaughter just ended. Should there be another?

Sue you, EU! The Canadian seal hunt continues despite a ban on seal products by the European Union.

Another Canadian seal hunt has come to an end. 

On June 15th, it was over. Warm weather made hunting conditions dangerous, Nelson Kalil, media spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said.  "The quota was something like 300,000, but my understanding is they didn’t get anywhere near 200,000."

The 2009-2010 hunt wasn't good and dimming the prospects even more for hunters was the ban on seal products by the European Union that was adopted in September of 2009, but is scheduled to come into effect in phases beginning on August 20. The prohibition will result in a $2.4 million loss for the Canadian sealing industry. "I imagine that finding a market will remain a challenge for sea hunters," the Fisheries and Oceans spokesperson said.

From videos depicting the blood of baby seals soaking the purity of ice to images of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean gobbling down  raw seal meat in Rankin Inlet in Nanuvet, the seal hunt is one of Canada's most divisive issues.  As the seal hunt draws to a close this year, the Vancouver Observer decided to take a closer look at a cultural tradition with an insecure future.


Newfoundland Seal Hunt in the 1880s (Wikipedia)

Seal hunt debate

The hunt, or slaughter, as some anti-sealing activists describe it, is either a violation of animal rights or a vital source of economic revenue, a basis of regional pride and a link to Canadian cultural heritage.

Within Canada the debate is polarized. During the 2010 Olympic Games, Liberation B.C., an animal rights group, and other anti-sealing organizations took advantage of the increased international attention on Canada by staging protests calling for an end to the hunt.  The federal government, meanwhile, is seeking new markets. Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans spent a week in China in January trying to find buyers for seal meats and products.

"China is a huge market. The EU was a small market for Canada and of course we're disappointed in their actions. (But) there are many other markets out there," Shea said in a teleconference call from Beijing to the National Post on January 11."

She attended China's thirtieth annual fur and leather fair and said currently China imported seal pelts and oil capsules that produced "millions of dollars for the Canadian economy."  She said the opportunity was there to expand other seal products; specifically meats and organs.

This does not please anti-sealing activists.  In the past year, PETA deployed a seal mascot to trail Stephen Harper as far away as Germany, while a group of politicians feasted on seal-meat – a double-smoked, bacon-wrapped seal loin in a port reduction to be exact – at the parliamentary restaurant.

In 2009, the seal hunt grabbed international headlines when the European Union passed its ban on the importation of all seal products in a bill stating that commercial seal hunting, which also occurs in Russia, Namibia, Norway, and Greenland, is “inherently inhumane.” The practice is so infamous that it has attracted condemnation from both President Obama and Vladimir Putin, who restricted his own country’s hunt after denouncing the clubbing of baby seals for the fur industry as a “bloody trade.”

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