Sir Paul McCartney graced Canada with a visit last week to spread his dual messages of good will and anti-seal hunting. Positioning himself and his wife for some key photo-ops with the most adorable seals money could buy, he pranced through the arctic amongst the precious creatures and preached about why Canada should stop the seal hunt. Touting intellectual reasons like the seals' defencelessness and the hunt being barbaric and cruel or something, Sir Paul urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take action and stop the hunt.
Canadians have never told old grandma England how to serve tea or eat crumpets; so why is one of her acolytes telling us how to club our goddamn seals?
Clubbing seals is as Canadian as maple syrup, and has been part of our tradition since we first landed here. The wealthy elite in England once sported fine seal hats or slippers while strolling down London's streets, and now they're telling us to stop. Granted, the market for furs has gone down in recent years, due to either the cruel nature of the killing, or the cuteness of the fur-producing animals. Whatever. The latter would seem to be the true reason, because, contrary to popular belief, most seal hunting is actually done with guns rather than clubs, as is the stereotype. The only time clubbing occurs is if someone runs out of bullets. I understand most people hold a very poor view of our First Nations peoples, but they do use modern technology and don't take joy in cruelly clubbing infantile seals as they cry their final "Ar... ar... ar..."
Aside from tradition, the people living around the seals have a high economic stake in the hunt. The seal hunt is worth an estimated $20 million a year. Telling them to not hunt the seals would be like telling Paul McCartney his time as a meaningful celebrity died with John Lennon--it would take away what sustains their existence. However, unlike Paul McCartney, who could fall back on his millions of dollars in Beatles' royalties, the people who live by the seal hunt have few alternatives. The argument against the seal hunt makes sense if you buy into the general mentality of some animal rights groups: animal lives must be worth more than human lives and animal lives also double in value if they are so goddamn cute you can make plush toys out of them.
What Sir Paul also overlooks is knowledge of the possible environmental impact of stopping the seal hunt. Seals are by no means endangered in this region; in fact their numbers are higher than they were 30 years ago, which is more than you can say for McCartney's record sales. Allowing seal populations to flourish unimpeded would cause overpopulation. These seals need to eat something, and by happenstance, they thoroughly enjoy the same types of fish populating the nets of Maritime fishermen. Besides further damaging a tenuous fishing industry, the seals would also find themselves without a source of food and a large population would be faced with starvation. There is a choice to be made. We could either allow the killing of seals in a humane manner, or we allow them to eventually starve themselves through overpopulation. That's worse than forcing them to listen to the Best of Wings until they club themselves to death.
Celebrity activism is always highly photogenic and well-publicized. It's obvious these celebrities get involved because their involvement lends a spotlight to the issue, but there is always an ulterior motive. For someone like McCartney, it's the need to feel morally superior. Apparently, seal hunting, by nature, is a barbaric act, and it's easy to feel righteous while condemning it. Unfortunately, celebrity activism tends to boil down any issue to appeal to everyone at a base level, ignoring any complexities it may hold. Equally as unfortunate is the readiness of people to side with celebrities on issues they're all clueless about. Paul McCartney wasn't knighted for his encyclopedic knowledge of marine eco-systems. He was a smashing musician 30 years ago, and an aging monarch touched him on the shoulder with a pointy bit of metal. That's it.
Though we can't be too certain the next time Sir Paul will bestow upon the heathen colonies the gift of his presence, we can be sure he'll be trying to press his high moral vision upon us. It's even certain the seal hunters understand the simple moral implications of killing the seal in their sights, but they also understand the need to sustain themselves. Contrary to common arguments, modern seal hunting is as humane as controlled forest burns and lacks the barbaric stigma it's associated with. The next time he's here, it's unlikely Sir Paul will start looking at quantifiable facts, as he'll be too busy looking for the next cute little sea-rat to get his photo taken with.