Since 1996, the Canadian government has poured millions of dollars a year into subsidizing the commercial seal slaughter and marketing the fur and flesh of baby harp seals. But all that money isn’t doing any good—the seal industry continues to collapse.
Since the European Union banned the import of seal products in 2010, Canada has fought with it, the World Trade Organization, and anyone else it could think of to have the ban overturned—so far without any luck. Canada tried to go a different route, selling seal meat to China, also without any luck.
After public outcry over the beating and skinning of baby seals drove the price of seal pelts so low that sealers could hardly cover their operating expenses, very few sealers took part in the 2011 slaughter and less than 10 percent of the quota of 400,000 seals were killed.
Then, in December, the slaughter suffered one of its most crushing blows yet. Russia, Canada’s largest remaining market, banned the import of all harp-seal products. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called seal slaughters a “bloody industry that should have been banned long ago .”
A month later, it became obvious that at least some Canadian officials were getting tired of sticking their heads in the sand, when Member of Parliament Ryan Cleary publicly questioned the slaughter. “Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped. Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be,” he said. “We know that the world appetite is not there for seal meat, but the world appetite for seal products—I don’t know if it’s there. And you know what? I may be shot for talking about this, and for saying this, but it’s a question we all have to ask .”
While pro-slaughter politicos may blast Cleary, they can’t deny the truth in his words. With markets drying up, dwindling numbers of sealers willing to kill for dismal profits, and the majority of Canadians opposed to the slaughter, the time has come for the Canadian government to start funneling money into helping sealers find other ways to make a living rather than trying to prop up a cruel industry that has garnered worldwide disgust.