By Paula Moore
As you read this, baby seals are being shot to death — or their soft skulls are being crushed with hakapiks, which are hooked clubs with piercing metals tips — on the ice floes off the coast of Canada. Sealers will be allowed to kill up to 400,000 harp seals during this year’s commercial slaughter, all for something that no one even wants: their fur. The seals’ skin will be torn off, and their bodies will be dumped in the sea or left to rot on the ice.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Canada’s cruel commercial seal slaughter had ended years ago. Indeed, as far back as 2005, Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham reported that because of limited media coverage, 60 percent of Canadians were “blissfully unaware that the seal hunt still exists.” But this is one instance in which ignorance is not bliss. Baby seals are helpless and have no way to escape from the sealers’ clubs and guns, so it is up to us to speak out and stop this barbaric slaughter.
And let’s get one thing straight: Although sealers object to calling these animals “babies,” that’s exactly what they are. Many of the young seals are slaughtered before they have even eaten their first solid meal or learned how to swim. While sealers are not allowed to kill “whitecoats,” seals can be killed as soon as they lose their iconic white natal fur at just a few weeks of age. Most are killed when they are between 3 weeks and 3 months old.
And the commercial slaughter is as wasteful as it is cruel. Ten years ago, sealers killed about 350,000 seals, but in 2015, that number dropped to 35,000 – the lowest in two decades. Fewer than 1,000 sealers have participated in the slaughter in recent years because of a lack of markets for seal-derived products. Seal fur processors admit that they are stockpiling pelts because they can’t sell them.
That’s because compassionate people around the world want nothing to do with this bloody business. Russia — which at one time had been importing 95 percent of Canadian seal pelts — has banned seal fur and other seal-derived products, as have the United States, the European Union, Mexico and Taiwan. And despite years of marketing efforts in China to create a demand for seal skins and meat there, it has not shown much interest in buying these cruelly obtained products, either.
So if seal fur isn’t allowed in fashion capitals like New York and Paris, and public sentiment around the world is firmly against the slaughter, why is it still going on?
The sealing industry survives only because of government bailouts. The Canadian government pours millions of tax dollars into propping up this dying industry, which has long cost Canada more money to support than it brings in, primarily for the shameful reason that the major federal parties want to control parliamentary swing seats in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That money could be better spent promoting Canadian businesses with brighter futures and helping sealers make the transition into other types of work. Letting the sealing industry limp along is not fair to either the seals or the sealers.
Please take a moment to urge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is known for his progressive views on social justice issues, to usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility and compassion by ending federal subsidies of the commercial seal slaughter. (Visit PETA.org to find out how.) Then use your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to help spread the word and get more people involved. The commercial seal slaughter is a relic of a less enlightened past, and it needs to end.