Its Seal Hunting Season Again!

i-967423dc2d7b1fed36b696b03f10ef52-seal_1.JPGCanada, land of the holier than thou. Hey, some of my best friends are Canadians, but really, most Canadians look down on Americans for being all the bad things that we truly are. So fine, we deserve it. But if you are a non-Canadian of any nationality, the next time a Canadian condescends to you, mention the one-million-seal a year quote that the Canadian government allows in their annual seal hunt.

Top Three Seal Hunt Myths
Here are the top three myths told by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about the commercial seal hunt:

Myth #1: The seal hunt is humane.
All available evidence, including veterinary reports and independent observations, indicates that each year tens of thousands of seal pups die in an unacceptably cruel manner inconsistent with contemporary animal welfare standards.

Year after year, observers report abuses such as the hooking and dragging of live seals across the ice, seals clubbed or shot and left to suffer on the ice, and seals skinned while conscious. And while all recent veterinary reports recommend reducing the suffering of seals, their recommendations have not been fully implemented. There is no doubt that Canada’s commercial seal hunt continues to result in considerable and unacceptable suffering.

Myth #2: The seal hunt is sustainable.

Seal catch quotas set by the Canadian government are much higher than government scientists’ estimates of what is sustainable, and these quotas are allowed to be exceeded. A recent study by IFAW scientists found that the current management approach risks depleting the harp seal herd by as much as 70% in the next 15 years.

i-9381b9a12d9a60d9e32274592929cd79-happyseal.jpgThe DFO often states that the harp seal population has tripled since the 1970s. However, this ignores the fact that between 1950 and 1970 the harp seal population was reduced by as much as two-thirds from seal hunting. Since 1995, harp seals have been killed at levels similar to those that caused a dangerous decline in the past, and the DFO now admits that the population has decreased.

Climate change is also presenting a new threat to the harp seal population by negatively impacting their breeding habitat. Increasingly, poor ice conditions off the east coast of Canada are causing higher than normal seal pup mortality. For example, government scientists estimate that in 2002, 75% of the seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence died due to a lack of ice before the hunt even began. Yet the government continues to set total allowable catches for harp seals above sustainable levels, putting the population at increased risk.

Myth #3: The seal hunt is closely monitored and well managed.

The seal hunt involves thousands of sealers competing for a limited number of seals during a short period of time. Sealers are concerned with clubbing or shooting as many animals as quickly as possible instead of checking to see if a seal is dead before moving on to club or shoot the next one.

Year after year, IFAW hunt observers encounter seals that have been clubbed and left to suffer on the ice, bleeding profusely, crying, breathing and attempting to crawl. These are not “reflexes” as the DFO claims, which are easily recognized and familiar to experience seal hunt observers.

During 2006, the DFO claimed to have had 12 monitors for the Gulf hunt, the largest enforcement effort ever. Yet sealers in one region were allowed to take three times their quota without any consequences. In fact the Total Allowable Catch has been exceeded in four of the past five years.


More information here.

Comments

  1. #1 Caveat
    March 31, 2008

    OK, it’s IFAW talking, so you have to use a grain of salt when quoting their ‘facts’ – same for H$U$ and others who like to fundraise with pictures cute little whitecoats.

    Here are some facts from a column I read recently, and they are accurate:

    Whitecoats haven’t been killed for more than two decades – it’s illegal.

    There are 5.5 million seals on the ice, the quota is 275,000 for 2008 – they are not endangered.

    Seals are not skinned alive, or left to die slowly and painfully, that’s AR hype.

    The hunt is not government subsidized.

    Here’s some food for thought:

    “Most people in Europe live in urban centres far removed from hunting, whether in Newfoundland and Labrador, Russia, Greenland or Finland,” says Prince. “As we get further removed from the realities of agriculture and hunting and so on, we get more sentimental.”

    And so it is that many people in Europe and elsewhere think killing seals for profit is somehow different than killing deer or ducks or shrimp.

    Meanwhile, most urbanites are not interested in witnessing the slaughter of your average cow, or observing how factory-farmed chickens or pigs live, let alone die. They know it might be even less pleasant than the seal hunt.”

    Here’s a link to Fisheries and Aquaculture’s page on myths vs realities of the seal hunt (more info on the left sidebar):

    http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/seal-phoque/myth_e.htm

    Would I do it? No, it’s too dangerous and I’m not the type to knock off animals I won’t eat; however, having a few facts at hand helps.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. #2 Gordon S
    March 31, 2008

    Yeah, was gonna type just what Caveat did. I don’t doubt that the seals feel pain, and that some activities outside of the regulations take place, but it is sustainable.

    Everyone cries about dead seas in between mouthfuls of steak, pork and chicken.

  3. #3 Tim
    March 31, 2008

    I agree with part of your thesis: DFO has proven itself to be a very incompetent manager of ocean resources – their management of cod stocks, is the most glaring example! However, the harvest of seals is probably sustainable: at some level – (from past performance, probably at a level below that set by DFO). Far too much of the criticism is based of emotion – (Oh, aren’t the seals cute. So what happened to the “kiss a cod for Christ” lobby!). Perhaps another valid objection is -”Is the entire animal used once it is harvested? Why can I not buy canned seal meat? Seal meat is very good – better than beef! However, the blanket objection to the seal hunt makes as much sense as objecting to fishing! Cuddle a cuddle fish for Christ!!

  4. #4 Bee
    March 31, 2008

    It must be spring.

    Have a look here for the kind of considered, humane, peaceful responses American animal lovers have to the seal hunt, and the people who sometimes lose their lives on the ice.

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102×3248014

  5. #5 Mr.Mom
    March 31, 2008

    Canadas Conservative prime minister just erased their head scientist post from their government. They dont listen to the science,and all of their environmental laws are being attacked. Dont be naive, you know they can care less about quotas. Its all about money, just like here

  6. #6 Caveat
    March 31, 2008

    This is kind of amusing. It’s an article from last year when a film-maker caught the AR folk filming a dying seal for an hour or so:

    http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=5a5f1196-f308-4059-8943-d1dcff0ae321

    PS I’m not holier than thou – I like you Yanks!

  7. #7 Gordon S
    March 31, 2008

    Mr Mom, that’s a perfect example of a rhetorical argument. It also happens to change nothing about the likely *fact* that the hunt is sustainable.

  8. #8 Brian
    April 1, 2008

    Greg I have to say I’m surprised that you would take information from an animal rights organization and post them as if they were fact without checking. They obviously have an agenda that they are pushing and those so-called facts don’t add up to me. In fact due to the extra thick sea ice conditions this year the seals are experiencing a huge population boom.

    BTW, that picture of the hunter clubbing a whitecoat, must be over twenty years old because the practice has been banned since 1985.

  9. #9 ChrisM
    April 1, 2008

    “the next time a Canadian condescends to you, mention the one-million-seal a year quote that the Canadian government allows in their annual seal hunt.”

    I’m not Canadian but to have this sort of misinformation on a so called science blog is disappointing.

    Along with spouting and evolving the AR propoganda, your statement that the quota is 0ne Million is way higher thant the quoted 275,000

    Downunder Spectaor

  10. #10 Corey
    April 1, 2008

    Or maybe mention the >30 million US cattle slaughtered per year?

  11. #11 blue collar scientist
    April 1, 2008

    “Seal meat is very good – better than beef!”

    It must depend on the seal, or how it is prepared. I’ve eaten at least two species of seal meat, and I found both pretty close in taste. Like well-done beef mixed with fish oil, maybe with a dash of beef liver flavor in there. Consistency is somewhat chewy, but I’d expect that’s even more prone to variation by preparation method.

    The seals I ate were hunted by Alaska Natives and prepared by them while I was a guest in their homes. I can’t get worked up about Alaska Natives hunting seal, but commercial hunts in North America have such a long history of abuse, of brutal exclusion of subsistence and sporting uses of the resource, and of association with massive government subsidy to commercial interests, that I’m suspicious of them on conservative grounds. I’d guess most people in favor of this hunt either have a fiscal interest or are somehow concerned that ending the commercial hunt will lead to the end of subsistence or sport hunting.

  12. #12 Susan
    April 1, 2008

    I guess I’m pretty much repeating what was said above. I don’t have a problem with hunting or harvesting animals if it’s sustainable. I think that things like over fishing get ignored while people flip over the killing of cute furry things. I realize people are a little better about what’s happening to the oceans these days but if people put half the effort into being outraged over the over-fishing of the oceans that they put into an annual seal hunt that lasts just a couple of weeks a year, the world would be a better place. I mean, while people were weeping and crying and dragging themselves across the ice to save “baby” seals the cod fishing industry off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was collapsing from over-harvesting. I don’t see Sir Paul and his idiot ex blubbering about the decline of the Pacific salmon, or the Atlantic cod or the Orange roughy or the bluefin tuna. And seriously how many people who oppose the seal hunt eat meat? Why is it okay to kill a cow but not a seal? I’m not saying that I’m pro-seal hunt nesessarily I do think that people take the bounty of the Earth a little for granted and that wanton cruelty of anything, seal or cow, is bad. It’s just when you look at the seal hunt and the outrage it seem to generate I think it’s a bit out of proportion campared to a lot of other things we should be getting mad about.

  13. #13 Mr.Mom
    April 1, 2008

    WTF is a “likely fact”? Either its a fact that its sustainable or its NOT. And theres a difference between 30 million cattle that are raised to be slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of wild seals that are slaughtered in their natural habitat. Not to mention the carnivores that might depend on the seals?

  14. #14 Caveat
    April 1, 2008

    The seal hunt is a tough one, no question, for many reasons, especially as the results are destined for Europe (you don’t see many sealskin boots or seal steaks in the stores around here, let’s put it that way) and the hunters average $100 per kill.

    However, if Polar bears were out on the ice by the thousands, killing seals, would it be cause for moral outrage or just nature doing its thing? Would ‘Humane Wayne’ being flying overhead and writing purple prose on his gag-me blog geared to adolescent girls?

    Not likely.

    People forget that humans are animals too, and like it or not, these seal-hunters are exhibiting human nature, in spades.

    As for the argument about raising and killing animals for food and other things being better than dispatching them in their natural habitat, I’ve felt for years now that hunting is much kinder than farming is, especially the way a lot of the latter is done these days.

    These animals return year after year, the population is about triple what it was in the ’70s, so they are not threatened in any way.

    The AR groups are arrogant in the extreme. They deny the fact that humans are just jumped-up apes, doing what comes naturally. The environment is not a separate entity, nor is the natural world. It is inextricably part of our lives on this planet and we are part of it.

    I’d rather see seals dispatched with a blow to the head while they lounge on the ice floes than know that 5 million dogs and cats struggle while they are dragged to their deaths in animal shelters across the continent – every single year. That’s unnatural but strangely, is supported by the major AR groups.

    Go figure.

  15. #15 Dave
    April 1, 2008

    Greg, your central thesis got lost the minute you decided to take pot-shots at Canadians, the majority of whom do not support the seal hunt. Gross generalizations should never find there way onto a blog devoted to science, especially when the data supporting them is questionable at best.

  16. #16 BB
    April 1, 2008

    For a moment, I thought there was a bit of April 1st mischief involved, but the publication date is March 31st.

    I’m not going wade too far into the moral dilemma, but I’d support traditional, sustainable hunting (or breeding) practice, as for other “human-use” animals or plants.

  17. #17 alka.roy
    April 1, 2008

    japs whaling -cannies sealing-another face of civilisation

  18. #18 Gordon S
    April 1, 2008

    Mr Mom said: “WTF is a “likely fact”? Either its a fact that its sustainable or its NOT”

    Sorry, I wrote that wrong. The hunt is obviously sustainable, since the number of harp seals has increased by a large amount over the past 40 years, despite an annual hunt. What I meant with the likely was that the population has likely tripled, but since that figure isn’t based on a head count, who knows, it might be off. Maybe it’s only doubled.

    Mr Mom: And theres a difference between 30 million cattle that are raised to be slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of wild seals that are slaughtered in their natural habitat. Not to mention the carnivores that might depend on the seals?

    Yes, there is a difference, and I think the larger moral failing is on the side of those in the cattle industry. Cattles are born into a system where their entire life is pain, sickness, drugs, and then slaughter. Seals are born in the wild, have fun as pups, find a mate, have their own pups, then we kill them. Hell, even Peter Singer agrees with me on that point.

    And the carnivores that depend on the seals clearly are doing just fine, since the population of seals has probably tripled.

    Let’s turn this one around on you, too. Take salmon, which we’ve also overfished to the point of near extinction. Letting all those seals live would surely negatively impact the remaining salmon, so it’s a good thing for the salmon that we are out there on the floes killing seal. (Not that we shouldn’t stop commercial fishing, which I happen to be in favour of.)

    alka.roy said: japs whaling -cannies sealing-another face of civilisation

    Bullshit. Seals aren’t endangered, and there is obviously a huge intelligence gap between seals and whales/porpoises.

    That really gets to the heart of this entire issue. Goofy people who are unable to differentiate their moral outrage according to facts.

    Faced with the facts that their cub seal mascots dont get hunted, that the hunt is sustainable, and that the killing is at least as humane as that in the cattle/pork/poultry industry, anti-hunt loonies resort to all kinds of ridiculous emotional arguments and false analogies.

    There’s a word for what you’re doing: denialism.

  19. #19 newfie
    April 1, 2008

    I happen to have known a lot of people who participate in the seal hunt. These are descendants of families who live off the land, have suffered immensely from the collapse of the cod fishery and are trying to make a living by the traditional means they know – hunting seals, moose and caribou and what meager remains are left in the ocean. It strikes me as the most vicious form of cruelty for rich British pop stars (and now, Greg Laden) to vilify these humble people and seek to deny an honest living to the impoverished just because they think seals are cute and pictures of them being killed are a cheap and easy way to buy headlines.

  20. #20 the real cmf
    April 2, 2008

    newfie: could you elaborate on the local people and the collapsed economy up there?

    I for one despise that rhetorical ploy of the right–adopted by the left as pertains to these issues (in this case a ‘lie that can travel the world a thousand times before the truth wakes to get its pants on’)….by well meaning folks like Greg.

    Sure, seal killing LOOKS cruel, and cow killing LOOKS humane to some degree, but having killed many beasts, I would not say that any of it is ‘humane’, whether it is a pheasant, flopping, and winged by lead pellets, or a deer trailing blood for 1/2 a mile. Killing beasts is a cruel bit of activity, but provides meat.The day the vegans come up with something that feeds the machine better, I am on it, but until then tofu-burger is just not a sifficient substitute.

    I want to hear about what alternatives are proposed up there in Canada to create some form of a sustainable economy for those who do(the humans), depend on that seal hunt.

  21. #21 the real cmf
    April 2, 2008

    Greg: is it also a myth that people up there must depend on this hunt? Any stats? The one reason I have never been a proponent of hatin’ on the hunt is that fact of humans relying on it for sustainance.

  22. #22 uncle noel
    April 2, 2008

    cmf: The issue is the taste of meat? So cruelty is tolerable if it results in pleasure for you? Just askin’. The seal hunt is about fur, not food. When justifying cruelty, one should come up with better reasons than money, vanity, or pleasure. I’d say the criteria could be nothing less than necessity. If that reflects the condition of the hunters, then I wouldn’t condemn them – but I would still be sickened by the slaughter. And I think people should eat less meat for the same reasons.

  23. #23 the real cmf
    April 2, 2008

    uncle noel: I eat meat maybe five times per week, in small portions: no, the taste o’ meat is a side issue. I do not condone ruthless useless slaughter either, and I am aware that the fur is the main issue. I do not condone cruelty.

    So when you state that “I’d say the criteria could be nothing less than necessity.” I am wondering: what would you propose to those people who depend on that source of income to feed their children? Is the feeding ones children in an impoverished area ‘necessity’?

    I recall having read that the Inuit natives starved for a time in Canada, and revisited the sites of old kills, digging up the remains of critters they had killed years before–eating the long buried skin and bones and sinews. Is that a time of necessity?

    Sure, I also have heard that Canada now has a great system of social welfare, health care etc.

    What I am adressing is that from all of the yearly hullabaloo, I have yet to see the critics propose an economy for the humans–humans are people too, ya’know, ay?
    After all, I live in a society (American) where dogs have more rights than some human beings–where the news broadcasts alerts for a missing ‘helper dog’ sometimes more quickly than little boys murdered by their caretakers–where deer meat donated to food shelves to feed the hungry is recalled because the meat has ‘lead in it’–lead pellets from the kill, and thus it goes into the garbage because some PC rhetoritician with ‘animal rights’ leanings has tipped the scales of sensibility in favor of wasted resources.

    So I am likely to be against the hunt as much as the next softie, but not when the people are left out in the Canadian cold. And i am asking if there are solutions for the people of that region to create sustainable economy in lieu of battering those awfully, heinously cute seal pups.

    Are you a Canadian? What’s your suggestion to help ‘the people, the other white meat’?

  24. #24 uncle noel
    April 2, 2008

    No, I am not Canadian, but the idea is tempting.
    Yes, feeding one’s children is a necessity.
    But battering somewhat intelligent animals with clubs and hooks is appalling whether they are cute or not. The ways Inuits and polar bears kill seals is also appalling, but I would not agitate for legislation against them. Cruelty occurs in nature and among humans; only humans can and should try to reduce it. This is the only moral principle I care about.
    I don’t have “solutions”, just a suggestion: Find a way to live that doesn’t involve cruelty.

  25. #25 Corey
    April 2, 2008

    My understanding that the way they kill the seals isn’t cruel. As ugly as it looks to see a picture like the one at the top of this post, it’s meant to be a quick painless death, the same way they try to do it in slaughterhouses.

  26. #26 the real cmf
    April 2, 2008

    here is a deer being ‘finished’…no report about how long it languished, or how long the blood trail might have been.

    Would folks be happier if the seals were shot like this? Is this cruel?

    or this? watch the squirrels in the middle of the vid:

    So, generally, it seems there is always this crossroads, where no one has any advice, or ideas about how to provide for the humans, but lots of morals when it comes to animals.

    noel: “I don’t have “solutions.”

    I do: figure out how to provide for the people, which should nullify the argument that killing those lil’ white furry cuties is valid. Anyone?

    But the amount of time, energy, money and other resources that is spent by various individuals every year to go up there, film the event over and over, and then talk about it endlessly could likely be better spent taking care of the people that claim to depend on that limited resource–buy them off as it were, kind of like we pay the police to not be criminals, or pay the farmers to NOT grow corn down here…

    Unless, of course, there is another agenda afoot…

  27. #27 Gordon S
    April 2, 2008

    I don’t think there is an alternate agenda, except maybe using the seal hunt as an anology for less cute animals. (Again, note, that seal pups don’t actually get killed.)

    I don’t want to make the argument that because killing animals is natural, it is therefore right, because I don’t believe that to be true. But at the same time, I find it pretty hard to get worked up about killing anything as stupid as a seal. I don’t think the ability to mimic behaviour in exchange for treats is necessarily the mark of a smart animal.

    The biggest problems for me when it comes to killing animals are mistreatment, sustainability, humane slaughter, and intelligence.

    Seals aren’t mistreated, they spend their lives in their natural habitat. Anything on a factory farm, as numerous videos can show you, are endemically mistreated. You need only watch that latest video with the downer cows being pushed around with forklifts for evidence, or the PETA videos of chickens being kicked into walls. The contrast is sharp, but I don’t need to even bother with that, because the lifestyle of these seals is not only better by comparison, it is as natural as you can possibly get.

    Sustainability. We’ve been over this one, the hunt is sustainable. So are the factory farms, even though it shiould be mentioned that they have negative environmental effects far beyond some boats out on the ice floes. Lakes of blood and shit, etcetera.

    Humane slaughter. Seals get clubbed in the head, presumably pretty hard. I would imagine that in the majority of cases, they are killed immediately or at the very least made unconcious and sustain massive brain injury. Of course, there are same that take a whack or two extra, cause the first one misses the cranium, or some that only get knocked unconcious, and wake up later. Same with factory farms. I don’t see much difference between the two, here.

    Intelligence. I went over that one before. I don’t give the seals much credit. We can train rats to use little green rakes, so bouncing a ball around isn’t too impressive.

    Now, use those metrics on things like:

    Whaling, which violates all those concerns except for mistreatment, though we’ve started with the midrange sonar and even just general noise pollution, so even that is iffy.

    Salmon fishing, which violates sustainability in a big way.

    Deer/Moose/Etc hunting, which is almost always a very inhumane slaughter method.

  28. #28 uncle noel
    April 2, 2008

    Citing examples of cruelty doesn’t justify cruelty. I’m glad that Gorden hopes seals are clubbed unconscious so they don’t suffer too much; at least he values compassion. Are people who place more value on compassion necessarily wrong?

  29. #29 the real cmf
    April 4, 2008

    noel: of course not: high moral ground is always right in a debate or discussion…but what’s next?

    In reality all killing is cruel ( I can say that especially b/c I was once ‘killed’ with a .357), and the compassionate are always correct to weigh the outcome; but Heavens to Zeus help us if we leave the daily workings of meat gathering to the compassionate–most of the ‘compassionate’ folk that I know always bring back Cheeto’s and chips; a twix bar or two, and some granola with soy milk….once in awhile, organic bison jerky.

    Then again, I haven’t been to a Rainbow gathering for quite awhile….

    the rest of those who talk about compasion always have this hidden agenda behind it that doesn’t include me.

    This reminds me of that whole ‘if you were on that plane that crasfed in the Andes, would you eat the guy in the seat next to you if you were starving?” debate…you don’t know what you would do until you are there waiting for the last breath to fll out of one or the other of you, and anything else is pure, self aggrandizing speculation.

  30. #31 kylie lockhart
    May 15, 2009

    I THINK THAT SEAL HUNTING BULL SHIT AND VERY IN HUMANE!!!! HOW CAN YOU FIND BEATING SEALS TO DEATH FUN IN ANY WAY. IT A SICK AND TWISTED SPORT AND WHO EVERY IS A PART OR AGREES WITH THIS HORRIBLE GAME NEED TO BURN IN HELL!! YOU GUYS ARE ALL SICK FUCKS!!!!!

  31. #32 Vj
    May 28, 2009

    Wow fuck you guys how in the world do you find this right. You people can all burn in hell with your seal killing clubs shover down your throats

  32. #33 Wyatt
    May 28, 2009

    Vj, do you know what a “myth” is? Can you read?

  33. #34 tori and my friend avery
    July 4, 2009

    BEATING ANIMALS IS WRONG.I THINK PEOPLE WHO BEAT SEALS OR ANY OTHER KIND OF ANIMALS SHOULD BE BEATEN SENSELESS.AND WHOEVER THINKS ITS FUN TO BEAT SEALS YOU NEED TO BE SHOT IN THE HEAD.. I LOVE SEALS AND I AM PLANNING TO GET A PET SEAL SOON.

  34. #35 Kara
    April 11, 2011

    I’m stunned at how many people argue that everyone who protests seal hunting is a hypocrit for eating cows and pigs.
    First of all, it has been 3 decades since I ate any cows, pigs, or anyone who ever had a face or a mother.

    Secondly, people usually kill cows and pigs in order to eat them, whereas seals are killed in order to take their fur so women can look stylish.

    Asian Indian women have beautiful luxurious hair, but I’m not going to kill any of them in order to take their hair and wear it. And if a man gave me the hair of a woman he killed, I wouldn’t view it as a gift and show it off to others in the desperate hope that it “proves” he loves me.
    Call me crazy, but that practice seems like it should have died with the cave men.

  35. #36 Greg Laden
    April 11, 2011

    Kara, you were doing OK there until the last paragraph when you uncritically equated humans and pinnepeds in your last paragraph. Then, you were just preaching to the converted.

    Also, do clams have faces, and if not, is it OK to eat them?