Repercussions from the Knight, the Lady, and Danny Boy's Seal Debate

Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

In the wake of Sir Paul McCartney and Lady Heather Mills McCartney's visit to the seals, the campaign to end the cruel and obscene slaughter of seals has slipped into high gear.

The entire world is now aware of the tragic mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups each year.

Politicians in Ottawa and in Newfoundland have gone into the "circle the wagons" mode and are sniping defensively at anyone who dares to criticize the slaughter.

Despite the fact that 60 million people saw Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams humiliate himself with his rambling fabrications defending the seal hunt, his fellow Newfoundland politicians have actually compared his so called "oratory skills" to Winston Churchill. Talk about delusions of grandeur.

Can you see this speech going down in the annals of history?

"B'yes, we will fight these seal defenders on the ocean. We will fight them on land. We will fight them in the air. We will beat them up, jail them, fine them, and we will ridicule these seal lovers. We will do whatever it takes to defend the killing of seals. We will continue to bash in their little heads, skin them alive and give ‘em the boot. We were born to kill seals because we are Newfies, and by God our very identity depends on being cruel seal-killing bastards. Yes sir b'ye. If need be, we will fight until the last seal pup but we will never surrender, hey b'yes."

Well, more like the anus of history.

Danny Williams embarrassed Newfoundlanders when he demonstrated that he could not tell the difference between a harp seal and a harbour seal. The seals you've seen swimming up river Danny are harbour seals. Maybe your friends in the World Wildlife Fund could give you a book on identifying seals but they are mad at you also for misrepresenting them. The World Wildlife Fund has never said the seal hunt is humane.

Danny even got his anti-sealing groups confused. He said the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) supports the seal hunt which they don't. He said that Greenpeace is opposing the seal hunt and they are not opposing it. He attacked PETA although they are not directly involved an accused them of being a terrorist organization.

He demonstrated that he knows very little about the groups opposing the slaughter of seals and he had the audacity to deny that seals are killed with clubs as the viewers watched footage of the sealers killing the seals with clubs. In other words, Danny wants us to believe him and not our own eyes.

But, we will let Newfoundlanders enjoy themselves in their fantasies because we have learned long ago that the decision to end the seal hunt will not be made in Newfoundland. It will not be made in Ottawa.

No, the only thing that will end the slaughter is good old economic pressure. It all comes down to profit and loss.

Already the losses to the Canadian Seafood Industry have greatly exceeded the relatively small profits from the killing of seals. The boycott is gathering strength every day and the call to boycott Canadian seafood by Heather and Paul McCartney has accelerated the effectiveness of this boycott.

Not since Brigitte Bardot graced the ice with her presence has the movement to protect the harp and hood seals seen such support.

Outside of Canada, the sympathy lies solidly with the seals. Inside Canada, the support is dropping. The majority of Canadians want the bloody seal hunt to end. Columnists from Peter Worthington to Barbara Yaffe have denounced it. The National Post has taken a strong anti-sealing stand.

According to respected journalist Peter Worthington, the seal hunt causes more damage to Canada's reputation than any other single event.

A letter from Laurel Harris published in the Toronto Star said:

Newfoundland Premier Danny WIlliams' embarrassing performance Friday night on Larry King Live did nothing to advance the cause for Newfoundland's seal hunt. Paul and Heather McCartney are correct in stating that the hunt is very damaging to Canada's international reputation.

To stubbornly refuse to even consider alternatives available to the seal hunters to replace the relatively small amount of $15 million to $20 million in income is doing a disservice to both the province and the country.

His arguments were weak, he was generally a sorry and unconvincing representative for his side and he made Newfoundland (and Canada) look bad.

The seal hunt should be ended, sooner rather than later.

Story Links:

Peter Worthington's Editorial in the Toronto Sun
Humane Hunting Still Just Killing
Clubbing death of seal pup in front of its mother is brutal - and wrong

Tom Hennessy had an excellent critical column on the seal hunt this week in the Long Beach California Press Telegram

Other editorials include the:

The Minnesota Daily Editorial
Story Link:

Story by Canadian Columnist Barbara Yaffe in the March 7th edition of the Vancouver Sun

We should be sealing the fate of an inhumane ritual

Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn quipped last week that Sir Paul McCartney, if he thinks he can halt Canada's seal hunt, will be traveling a long and winding road -- remember that Beatles song?

Hearn, a politician I've come to admire through years of interviewing, might reconsider his smart-assed comment if he viewed some Internet footage on the U.S. Humane Society's website. The video shows clearly why the hunt is nothing but bad news and isn't worth perpetuating.

Seals that have been clubbed are shown writhing in their blood, waiting to die. Their eyes are open. Every arduous movement of their bodies signals mortal pain. These aren't involuntary post mortem twitches but sentient mammals in agony, awaiting death's release.

This is the fundamental problem with the seal hunt. It's an exercise in mayhem on ice floes.

It clearly isn't possible to station a fisheries officer on every ice pan to ensure sealing regulations are respected.

Sealers don't execute quick kills and methodically collect the booty. They often leave bodies behind, and when you're killing a moving herd on an undulating chunk of ice in brutal weather, you cannot expect any hunter to be systematic or particular about the way he practises his vocation.

As someone who reported in Newfoundland for years, I've in fact experienced pack ice conditions in winter. I know whereof I speak. Sure, let's have a seal hunt -- after all, we kill and butcher all manner of animals; how hypocritical would it be to say we should kill chickens and cows but not seals, because they're cuter. But in the name of all that is right and decent, let's have that seal hunt only if we can do it humanely.

And we cannot. We prove that in spades year after bloody year. As a past defender of the hunt, I've had to conclude that the hunt's conditions and locations make quick, humane kills impossible. McCartney may be another in a long lineup of know-it-all rich celebs who spend a day at the front and pronounce from on high (in fact, I found his analysis both respectful and thoughtful). But that doesn't, in and of itself, make him wrong.

This issue goes to a principle. Do we as a society insist on harvesting animals humanely? It's up to each individual to decide. But we must bear witness before deciding, so I urge everyone to view the internet clips.

Two other points to consider once you've decided whether the hunt is humane:
(1) Seals are killed primarily for fur, not meat.
(2) While the white-coated seal pups aren't killed, they stop being pups and are open to kills after 12days of life. Twelve days of life.

While this is our business, not McCartney's nor the world's, it's also our welfare at stake in this fight.

Because the fuss over the hunt has escalated year by year, it has started taking a toll on Canada's reputation globally and on its economy.

The annual landed value of seals is $16.5 million, providing small but significant benefit to one per cent of Newfoundlanders. It's not known how much Fisheries and Oceans spends regulating the hunt and cultivating markets.

What is known is that Ottawa spends $78 million by way of a Canadian Tourism Commission to rosy up our reputation for tourists. (Foreign tourists spent $18 billion here in 2004.) Better to chop the commission's budget and hand cash to the sealers. Animal-rights groups are organizing a Canadian seafood boycott that's escalating. They maintain the boycott -- launched in March of 2005 - has already cost Newfoundland $156 million in lost snow crab sales.

Some 400 restaurants and companies, mainly in the U.S., have signed on to the boycott so far. The groups currently are putting pressure on Red Lobster, with 670 restaurants, to stop buying Canada's seafood.

If the seal hunt were humane, Canadians should be telling these groups where to go stuff it. But many who view the video footage will be disturbed.

At this point Canadians need to begin pondering whether we're acting out of little more than bravado and defiance.