If you’ve been following the animal rights movement as long as I have, you no doubt remember when the campaign to end Canada’s despicable seal slaughter caught the world’s attention. A public outcry forced Canada to ban killing white coat baby seals in 1987, and the sealing industry essentially collapsed. Then in 1996, the Canadian government started subsidizing the massacre in a desperate attempt to rebuild it. As a result, the number of seals killed each spring began to rise.
Just as they did when images of fluffy baby seals with enormous eyes first started capturing hearts, club-wielding sealers can still kill baby seals—but now they must wait until after the seal pups have started molting their white natal fur, which is at about 2 weeks of age. About 95 percent of seals killed during Canada’s annual seal slaughter are between 1 and 3 1/2 months of age.
Fortunately, because of recent developments, the number of seals killed each year is falling. Here in the U.S., the sale of seal fur and flesh has been banned since 1972. In 2010, the European Union (EU) joined the U.S., passing a ban on the importation of seal products from Canada. Despite the fact that the “kill quota” for harp seals continues to increase each year by the tens of thousands, the actual number of seals killed has been steadily dropping in recent years. Even before the EU ban, processors had reported having two to three years of seal skins stockpiled that they were unable to sell. During last year’s slaughter, many sealers stayed home because they were unable to find buyers for the skins stripped from seal pups.
But Canada isn’t taking this lying down. It recently launched a challenge to the EU ban, claiming that it could hurt chances for ratification of the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the EU. Just this month, Canada seemed poised to spend another $10 million to fund a new challenge to the World Trade Organization in an attempt to overturn the EU’s ban on Canadian seal products.
Even as the EU expresses its distaste for seal slaughter cruelty, Canada is desperately hoping to recoup lost profits by pushing seal meat in China. But, as the UK’s Guardian reports, this approach may be backfiring.
Beyond the cruelty of the seal slaughter lies an economic irony. Canada is believed to have spent $4.3 million over the past two years just to provide Coast Guard support for the slaughter. Yet, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported that in 2010, the gross revenues from the seal massacre in Labrador and Newfoundland, where roughly 90 percent of the sealers live, was a meager $1.3 million.
In addition to the money squandered on the slaughter itself, the Canadian government has spent tens of millions of “marketing” dollars over the years on everything from “seal meat luncheons” to lavish trips to China to produce seal fur fashion shows. But consumers continue to reject seal products.
Considering that an overwhelming number of Canadians (86 percent) believe that the EU has every right to ban their country’s seal products and that a majority want to see an end to the seal massacre, it’s certainly time for Canada to give up this barbaric slaughter for good.
For more information on the slaughter and what you can do to help stop it, please check out CanadasShame.com.