Joe, What You Say Just Ain't So

Joe Walsh is a columnist for the St. John's Evening Telegram in St. John's, Newfoundland. He's been a rabid defender of the barbaric slaughter of harp and hood seals for decades.

This last Sunday his column singled out Michigan Senator Carl Levin who last month called on Canada to halt the slaughter of seals on the East Coast of Canada.

This is his latest column peppered with editorial comments from Captain Paul Watson. 

(Joe Walsh column in bold, Paul Watson's comments in italics)

We can certainly do a great deal to enhance the Christmas holiday season for United States Senator Carl Levin, who last month, called on Canada to halt "the needless slaughter" of seals off the East Coast.

(Paul Watson: We can send a thank-you e-mail or letter to Senator Carl Levin)

The Michigan senator can rest assured that at least during the festive season, we Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans will stop these barbaric practices.

(Paul Watson: Here Walsh freely admits that killing seals is a barbaric practice)

Now, we may indulge in a meal or two of seal flipper pie, but this will come from our refrigerators, not the ice floes.

(Paul Watson: Walsh is dismissing the fact that seal flippers are brutally cut from the bodies of young seals by suggesting they originate in the refrigerator.)

Maybe, just maybe, our promise not to partake in this massacre of innocent seals during the Yuletide season will also put an end - if not at least a short break - to the asinine e-mails from animal rights groups.

(Paul Watson: The e-mails from animal rights groups must be annoying him. We should send more. His e-mail is

These poor, uninformed souls, many of whom reside in much warmer climes south of the border, continue to participate in e-mail campaigns to the media, even though they know little, or nothing, about the harp seals off our coast.

(Paul Watson: This is the tiresome and false spin that Newfoundlanders continue to regurgitate. The fact is that the majority of Canadians are opposed to the seal hunt. Three of the most prominent anti-sealing activists are from Eastern Canada. Brian Davies and myself are originally from New Brunswick and Rebecca Aldworth of IFAW is a genuine Newfoundlander. I've also found that the average Newfoundlander is exceptionally ignorant about harp seals, blaming them for destroying the cod when in fact it was the greed of Newfoundland fishermen and the incompetence of the Canadian Department of Fisheries that caused the total collapse of the cod fishery.)

In most cases, these e-mails simply repeat propaganda that has been widely distributed by animal rights groups that use it to raise funds from people who wouldn't know the name of Canada's prime minister, let alone how the seal harvest is conducted.

(Paul Watson: The cruelty of the seal hunt is well documented and people around the world are very much aware of this cruelty. And the Canadian Prime Minister is Paul Martin by the way.)

Leaders of these anti-sealing groups know how to manipulate the media - especially media in countries not familiar with the sealing industry. In his book, Seal Wars, Paul Watson - who is well known for his anti-sealing antics - admitted members of his organization were "masters" of media manipulation.

(Paul Watson: Thank-you Joe for the plug for my book.)

No doubt, Levin's sudden outburst in the U.S. Senate was prompted by one of the animal rights groups, which probably slipped a few bucks to his re-election campaign.

(Paul Watson: Heaven forbid that Levin speak out against the cruelty of the hunt because it is in fact cruel. I'm not aware of anyone slipping Levin a few bucks for his re-election campaign, that's still a year away but I think he deserves some campaign contributions for his stand on behalf of the seals.)

Forgot his own problems

Surely, it must have slipped his mind that his country has a seal harvest - in Alaska - condones the annual slaughter of thousands of Canada geese in Puget Sound, and permits a practice known as "canned hunting" in which hunters pay high fees to kill trophy animals that have been confined to enclosed areas.

(Paul Watson: The seal hunt in Alaska is a relatively minor aboriginal hunt in the Pribilof Islands that takes less than 1,500 animals each year and can hardly be equated with the slaughter of 350,000 seals each year on the nursery floes of the harp seal by non-aboriginal peoples. Levin in his statement to Congress cited the fact that the U.S.A. ended subsidies on the Alaska seal hunt in 1983. And despite Walsh insinuating that Levin and other Americans support the practice of canned hunting and the killing of Canada Geese, they do not and there are strong movements to oppose both of these cruel practices. Walsh would rather deflect criticism of the Canadian seal hunt but pointing his finger elsewhere.)

Does the good senator wear leather shoes or use other products made from leather? Does he eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken or meat from any other animal?

(This is the old, "hey you eat meat so you can't condemn cruelty to seals" argument. The problem is that the accuser always assumes that the person opposing the killing of seals eats meat. The animal rights movement that Walsh dismisses can honestly answer these charges by saying no to eating meat and wearing leather. I don't know what Senator Levin's dietary habits are but the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seals in the wild is an atrocity that can be legitimately opposed.)

If he does, he is condoning the "needless slaughter" of innocent animals. Killing animals, whether its seals, cows or pigs, are an ugly business. But it is a business and millions of people rely on it for their livelihoods, not to mention the fact that millions of people enjoy eating meat and poultry.

(Paul Watson: The economics of the seal hunt can hardly be compared to that of the domestic meat industry. Raising farm animals is big business and it is a business that is being strongly criticized and opposed. The seal hunt survives because of government subsidies. Take away the welfare and the "business" would collapse.)

More than five million harp seals inhabit the waters of the North Atlantic and they are not in any way, shape or form in danger of being destroyed. That fact is based on evidence gathered by fisheries biologists.

(Paul Watson: By the same fisheries biologists who claimed the cod populations were healthy until the day they collapsed. I refer to these government paid scientists as biostitutes. The actual number of harp seals is closer to three million than to five million.)

Each year, Inuit, Innu and inshore fishermen are given a set quota of seals to harvest.

(Paul Watson: There are no Inuit and Innu in Newfoundland. Newfoundland exterminated their aboriginal populations a hundred years ago. The Innu and Inuit who hunt adult seals in Northern Labrador and the Arctic are not part of the commercial slaughter of the 350,000 seals killed each year. This is simply a ploy to gain sympathy by false association with aboriginal peoples. This is especially insidious coming from the only Canadian province to successfully carry out a policy of genocide on the original inhabitants. Newfoundlanders also drove the Newfoundland wolf, the Labrador duck and giant auk to extinction and extirpated the polar bear, walrus, and pilot whale from their waters.)

That quota is established in conjunction with recommendations from scientists to ensure seal populations are not endangered.

(Paul Watson: In fact the quota is set by politicians and not scientists and one Canadian cabinet minister John Efford is on record as wanting to wipe them out. He said, and I quote, "the more they kill, the better I love it.")

Federal regulations are strictly enforced by fisheries officers to ensure the harvest is conducted as humanely as possible.

(Paul Watson: This is the biggest myth of all. Every year documentation of cruelty is turned over to the authorities that do - nothing.)

Besides being a source of food for those who harvest them, the sale of seal meat and fur supplements the incomes of fishermen, many of whom have been hit hard economically by the collapse of groundfish stocks such as cod.

(Paul Watson: The income is insignificant and Canadian tax-payers would save money by paying the sealers to not kill seals rather than paying them to do so. They would not have to subsidize the fuel and maintenance of the boats.)

Unfortunately, it's too bad that some of the practices in the U.S. involving innocent animals, such as dog fights, are not as well regulated as the seal harvest.

(Paul Watson: Let me see, dog fights are illegal in the U.S. It does not get more well regulated than that.)

Maybe, Levin and his anti-sealing buddies can turn their attention and energies to ending the cruelty inflicted on animals south of the border.

(Paul Watson: Senator Levin and his anti-sealing buddies do indeed focus their attention and energies in opposing the slaughter and cruelty against animals in the United States. For someone like Walsh who must not be able to chew gum and type at the same time, it must be difficult to imagine that people can oppose the seal hunt in Canada and ALSO be opposed to other cruelty issues at the same time.)

Joe Walsh is the editorial page editor of The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at 

Senator Carl Levin's Statement on the Seal Hunt

Taken from the Congressional Record, July 22, 2003, pp. S9700-S9701

Canadian Harp Seal Hunt

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, has recently brought to my attention a matter that I want to share with my colleagues. According to this prestigious organization, the Canadian government provides millions of dollars of subsidies to the sealing industry every year. These subsidies facilitate the slaughter of innocent animals and artificially extend the life of an industry that has ceased to exist in most developed countries.

In 2001, a group of independent veterinarians traveled to observe the Seal hunt. What they witnessed was shocking to all who are concerned about the humane treatment of animals. The images are difficult to envision but harder to believe: skinning of live animals and the dragging of live seals across the ice using steel hooks.

Few would argue that this industry still serves a legitimate purpose. A number of years ago, an economic analysis of the Canadian sealing industry concluded that it provided the equivalent of only 100 to 150 full-time jobs each year. In addition, the analysis found that these jobs cost Canadian taxpayers nearly $30,000 each. The report concluded that when the cost of government subsidies provided to the industry was weighed against the landed value of the seals each year, the net value of the sealing industry was close to zero.

There is little about the Canadian sealing industry that is self-sustaining. The operating budget of the Canadian Sealers Association continues to be paid by the Canadian government; their rent each month is paid by the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador; seal processing companies continue to receive subsidies through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; Human Resources Development Canada, and other federal funding programs for staffing and capital costs. The sealing industry, through the Sealing Industry Development Council and other bodies, receives assistance for product research and development, and for product marketing initiatives, both overseas and domestically. All the costs of the seal hunt for ice breaking services and for search and rescue, provided by the Canadian Coast Guard, are underwritten by Canadian taxpayers.

Many believe that subsidizing an industry that only operates for a few weeks a year and employs only a few hundred people on a seasonal, part-time basis is simply a bad investment on the part of the Canadian government. The HSUS has already called upon the Canadian government to end these archaic subsidies and instead work to diversify the economy in the Atlantic region by facilitating long-term jobs and livelihoods. The clubbing of baby seals can't be defended or justified, and Canada should end it just as we ended the Alaska baby seal massacre 20 years ago.