Opinions
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Save an Inuit, club a seal

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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.

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Comments

Some good points. After all, the WWF and Greenpeace have backed away from this cause after scientists started saying that the seal populations were not endangered.

Still, would we as Canadians complain if we saw puppies being clubbed to death by hakapiks? I think the issue is simply a question of which animals we like and don't want to see be hurt.

Nobody really gives a damm about fish/ cows/ pigs/ chickens. Only vegetarians like the McCartneys can truely say they care about all these animals I suppose.

Oh, Jesus Christ.

Those opposing the seal hunt - including Paul McCartney - are opposing the COMMERCIAL seal hunt. There are no Inuit participating in that hunt, okay? Quit propagating this myth and get your facts straight.


The seal hunt is inhumane. And when sealers skin those seals alive, the Canadian government does NOTHING.

Not only that, this hunt has been heavily subsidized, and now with the worldwide boycott of Canadian seafood, it is not only a stain on Canada's reputation but is costing Canada millions more than the seal hunt is actually worth, as well.

Tradition is no good reason for ANYTHING. Slavery was once tradition, too - wanna keep that fine tradition alive?

The seals keep the ecosystem alive through what they eat. Nature keeps them in check. You know what is making fish stocks disappear? That's right - overfishing! Good boy!

I'm also sick of the cute argument being brought up. Can you think of nothing better? Organizations like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, one of the biggest opponents of the hunt, have had campaigns for cod and sea cucumbers, too.

And I know that I sure have an overwhelming urge to cuddle up to those fuzzy little sea cucumbers.

But you're still not explaining why the seal hunt should be stopped.

If they're not endangered, why shouldn't they be managed and harvested like any other animal we kill, wild or domestic?

And Inuit people are most definately using the seal hunt for economic reasons. Many people who are against the hunt have suggested that Inuit people need neither the animals' fur (they can get some Gortex jackets)or the extra money from the skins.

The Sea Shepard Society is concerned that the seal hunt is not sustainable, but many scientists and other organizations disagree with them. The SSS is also concerned about things like sea cucumbers being endangered- not because they're cute or not cute.

What this article is partly saying is that the opposition to the seal hunt is mostly emotional. If anything the McCartneys are using the emotion of the seal hunt to encourage people to think about how we treat animals. The McCartneys would surely love it if we all gave up meat and animal products.

I think they would like us to stop killing seals, then start looking and our need to kill any animal, including the sea cucumber.

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

If you want to talk about getting the facts straight...

Greenpeace has in fact come out against this horrific display of human arrogance and ignorance; the WWF has a mandate that promotes some human-based concept known as 'sustainable management of resources', as though the lives of millions of individuals can somehow be dismissed as "resources".
In any case, the reality of this 'hunt' is that it is neither humane, sustainable, or even remotely justifiable, on any level.

So, if there is an emotional factor in those who oppose the 'hunt', then what does one call the playing of the 'traditions and livelihood' card? Certainly there will be some form of emotional attachment to an issue like this-on both sides-but that is somewhat beside the point.
It really isn't for us to decide the annihilation of any individual(or masses of individuals), certainly on the basis as to whether they-as a species- are threatened or endangered. Each individual is endangered when confronted by a human with a hakapik or gun-and that is both reprehensible and unjustifiable. As entities that share this planet they are not under any domain that favours humankind, no matter how much our kind would arrogantly assume it to be the case. We have destroyed-through selfish plunder-the oceans; furthering that through this insane activity only worsens the situation.

I agree that there is an emotional aspect to the "tradition" perspective, but how is maintaining it as a livelihood in anyway emotional? It's pure necessity.

If you believe that humanity can sustain itself without killing any animals, that's fair. But there are those don't, and they can't be expected to accept others imposing their beliefs on them.

It's hard to accept calling animals equals when there is obvious seperation between humans and animals on the level of sheer reasoning. Animals don't choose right from wrong, they just exist. They do what they need to sustain themselves. It's amusing to think that some call us equal to animals, yet are expecting us to act above them at the same time.

I'm more or less on board with you re: the placement of value on a life based only on how cute it is, but here's where you get confused:

Justifying interference in a complex ecological system ("kill the predators before they starve themselves") to stave off the consequences of other interferences ("they eat the fish we're stripping out of the sea") is mismanagement at it's absolute worst.

I've seen this red herring thrown out every time someone opposes hunting (whatever endangered predator), or stripping bare (whatever ecosystem) for some kind of new development, or stopping polution because it kills (some aquatic species or other). It's a bad cliche, and built on a foundation of unjustified assumptions.

You could equally argue that we need to curb fishing in the north.

I have no problem with killing seals per se, but screwed up pseudo-ecology pisses me off.

I hope a lot of this article is tongue in cheek.
It does have a lot of mixed messages. Killing seals for eco protection, and culling to avoid them overfishing is one perhaps justifiable argument.
Throwing in the fact that Paul McCartney is a pain, or that it makes money are far less so.
Those who judge animals equals aren't doing so from an intellectual standpoint, more from a right to exist standpoint. As entertaining as it would be for the Prof's to get to cull all the stupid people from U of C, they allow us to exist peacefully anyway, regardless of out intelligence.
Mind you, this is Alberta, half the cars have a cows head on a sticker. The only animal rights in this province seem to be the right to be eaten with BBQ sauce.

How can you stick up for this? I do not understand how anyone can? These jerks are doing it for some extra cash. It should not be legal. The United States would never allow this. This is one reason why you guys arent as good as us, and you never will be. You kill innocent little seals to make some extra cash. You should be ashamed.

To Randi W.

First of all it is not inhumane. Independant studies have PROVEN that 98% of the harvesting of seals is done humanely. Unless you know more than these independant reviews do.

Once again, independant reports have proven that seals are not skinned alive. Just is not happening.

The hunt has NOT been subsidized since 2001 and it is illegal to do so, so I don't know where that's from.

This "worldwide boycott" of Canadian seafood has proven to be a farce.

"HSUS has claimed that over 200 American restaurants and fish companies are no longer buying Canadian seafood in protest of that nation's unrelated seal hunt. But among the 87 supposed "boycotters" we contacted, a whopping 78 percent said either that they were selling Canadian seafood, or that they never served it in the first place.

HSUS has since quietly altered its own press release.

Still listed in that press release as boycotters, however, are Washington's Ardeo Restaurant and Legal Sea Foods, both of which (as Global National reported) had Canadian seafood on the menu just yesterday."
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/headline/2998

It is not costing Canada millions of dollars, that is a joke. It is bringing millions of dollars to a region desperately in need of it.


Laurie:

Using the "US wouldn't allow this" argument opens you up to be completely destroyed on the many things the US allows, and does itself to, not only animals, but to people.

I'm just going to pick a few of the many things the US allows that are far worse than hunting seals. How about drilling for oil in a wildlife reserve? How about gassing Canadian Geese?

Hm. Getting killed in one shot by a gun or a club, like a seal, or getting slowly gassed to death like a goose. It's hard to choose.

Finally someone that understands what the the hell is going on!

Inuit only kill what they need to survive it has always been that way. Trying to stop seal hunting in canada would be taking away income, jobs, food, and not to mention cutlure from inuit.

There are always 2 sides to every story. So why dosent Sir Paul come to where seal hunting is important to the people, and say to us inuit that what we have known for thousands of years is totally wrong and barbaric. I would like to see him tell a hunter that he shouldnt hunt seals anymore because its inhumane and heartless. Heartless would be letting the families starve while Sir Paul sleeps better knowing that the baby seals are well cared for.

Supporter of seal hunting and one damn proud Inuk.

So, hmm you want to talk unsustainable listen to this. One have any of you people (except for the post above) actually been in the arctic? Have you ever walked into a northern (the name of the grochery store in most communities) and seen what a loaf of bread costs? about 5 bucks, yes 5 dollars for the crappy white bread. That bread is grown thousands of miles away, and gallons of water were used to produce that wheat, gallons of oil were used to ship that loaf of bread to the arctic (in the winter many fresh provisions are flown thousands of KM).

Do you think that many people living in the arctic can afford this? Of course not, hunting plays a major role in the Nunavutmiut subsistance base. So how bout we stop being a bunch of colonial assholes and stop telling the indigenous peoples (who have been harvesting seals for longer than most European countries have existed) of the arctic what to do.

i think it should be right to kill a seal as long as it has not been killed 4 fun. the inuits nead seal to survive!!!

you say seals aren't endangered, but the panda bears are,a nd it's not fair that you forget about them just to have coats. I guess I understand where you are coming from, if Canadians didn't leave such inflaming scenes for pictures. What about the baby seals who don't have a chance to fight back?

This kind of thing is so tough to decipher. Most people would agree that there are occasional reasons for killing animals, but there should never be a reason for torturing them. And by torture I mean beating them a few times, checking to see if they are alive, and then beating them more. The "professional" hunters that I see on all of the videos (see: youtube, peta, greenpeace) couldnt hit the side of a barn with the club and seem to break noses and step on flippers before eventually making their mark. How is that humane? Running out of ammo? Please, that's the biggest load of crap.. I have seen seals set on the skinning pile while still coughing and looking around and trying to crawl away, and then just buried under another seal. Your friendly neighborhood clubman doesnt even have the decency or the patience to finish the job. Gotta make that Canadian dollar. So you may have some valid points about the populations etc., but you have your head up your ass if you think that the seal killers take their time to do it one humane hit. You would think you guys would be right on target with how well you play hockey up there... or is it the hockey rejects that we're watching swing and hit the seal in the back instead of the head..? Your head's even farther up your ass if you think that all these seals are dead when they get skinned. Seals can get knocked out too, not moving but still very much alive. My point is that you have pamphlet facts, the same as what's on your beloved country's website, and just because you are Canadian doesnt mean you know very much about your other national pasttime. Next time you should write about french fries and gravy.

Well, if its also a matter of overpopulation of seals, and its hurting the fishing industries, then maybe we should start clubbing and shooting humans...after all, we are an overpopulated world with people starving everywhere. How about the sealers start farming grains to help feed the hungry, than no one gets hurt...now theres an idea, DUH!

Sorry Yvonne, there's no lobby or appetite for a Soylent Green industry here in Canada. The unions would never allow a measure that would decrease their head counts.