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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More On The Seal Hunt

Okay, as a follow-up to my post Let The Truth Be Heard... Okay, so I came across this blog entry last night entitled Clubbed a baby seal lately? - and with a title like that you can only image the content. The entry was largely based upon a message sent out to members of a PETA listserve, and I felt the need to comment on this entry and stated:

Glad to see that you have bought the misinformation and lies of the animal rights groups hook, line and sinker.

First, baby seals (i.e., whitecoats and bluebacks) aren't hunted - haven't been since 1987 (but why let facts ruin a good photo op and what can be a lucrative fundraising campaign). Second, the vast majority of seals that are harvested aren' clubbed (approximately only 10% are in fact). Third, clubbing is just as humane a way of killing an animal as the steel bolt through the head that they use to kill cattle, but I don't see PETA protesting outside of ranches. Fourth, the vast majority of teh seal is actually used - the coat for fur, the blubber for oil, the meat is eaten, the bones are used by a growing number of native artists, etc.. Finally, the seal hunt brings in approximately $55 million dollars into the rural Newfoundland economy, a region which can see seasonal unemployment reach levels of greater than 25%.

But why let the facts get in the way of of a great crusade!

When I woke up this morning, the author of this blog had written me an e-mail, to which I responded figuring that I was wasting my time getting into a pissing match with an extreme animal activitist that simply wouldn't listen to me. Boy, was I wrong!

In her original e-mail to me she spoke of clubbing baby seals in front of their mothers and such, so I felt the need to reply to her with the following:

They don't club seals in front of their mothers and they don't club seals that are packed (cause those are female seals that are still weaning their young). Law prohibits either of these groups of seals from being included in the harvest. I should also note that approximately 90% of the seals are killed by riffle, not by clubbing

I will admit that prior to 1983 (when the Europeans banned the importation of Canadian seal products), there were some less than humane things happening. The Canadian Government closed the hunt and in 1987 re-opened it with very strict procedures. It fact, it is the most regulated harvest of wild or domestic animals in Canada.

My biggest problem is that organizations like PETA and the US Humane Society purposeful use misinformation about the hunt to ellicit the sympathy of people like yourself (and in many cases the money of others). For example, if you go to the US Humane Society's website and look at their protect seals area. At the top of the page you'll see a picture of a cute little whitecoat (illegal to hunt since 1987) and an image from a 1964 film of a seal being skinned alive from the IFAW (it was later discovered that the IFAW had paid the sealer in the movie to commit these acts of cruelty so they could be caught on tape).

Now because of these lies, they have a well meaning person like yourself out in California who has never seen a seal in their lives believing that these cruel and inhuman people go out and club baby seals to death as they lie in front of their mothers or skin the fur off of the seals while they are still alive just to watch them suffer because that individual is only interested in the fur. I can honestly say that nothing could be further from the truth.

The vast majority of sealers are from Newfoundland and Labrador, a province that typically enjoys an annual unemployment rate of twice the national average (about 10%-12%), and because the vast majority of their industries are resources based and seasonal in nature there are times when that average reaches 16%-18% (and as high as 25%-30% in rural areas). The seal hunt comes at a time when there is little employment in this seasonal cycle in rural Newfoundland and brings in approximately $55 million to these portions of the province.

As for the seals, there are approximately six million of them - three times the number that there were twenty years ago (I should note that there are only 506,000 people living in Newfoundland and Labrador, even though it is geographically as large as California). The annual hunt is usually in the 300,000 to 350,000 seal range. Given their growth over the past twenty year, the seal herd grows at a rate of about 200,000 each year. Scientist have acknowledged that the herd is at dangerously high levels, and is beginning to affect the health of other species of fish that seals rely upon or that rely upon the same food sources as seals - some have even called for massive one time cullings of upwards of a million seals. The Canadian Government has taken the more measured appoach of setting a quota that is 100,000 more seals that what are beng more, trying to manage this balance in a slow and delicate manner.

In any regard, I don't blame you for the position that you have taken, you have been successfully duped by a well oiled public relations and fundraising machine. I only hope that with additional and more accurate information that you'll see that the seal hunt is a responsible management of a resource that is carried out in as humane as way possible (particularly compared to how we treat other wild animals and especially compared to how we treat animals raised simply for the purposes of consumption).

The response that I got from this response was surprising, but extremely refreshing. This California journalist expressed concern that she had been duped by this particular lobby groupon this particular issue and encouraged me to post this kind of information on my site.

To Gina Smith, thanks for renewing my faith that in the notion that if people are ony exposed to the real facts that they will be much more reasonable in their approach. I say this because I don't simply dismiss people that are against the seal hunt because they are against the seal hunt. For example, these two guys - An Environmentalist's Case for the Seal Hunt and Seal hunting and why I'm a "vegetarian". Now while I disagree with their positions against the seal hunt, they both oppose it on personal, philosophical and informed rationales - and while I can disagree with them I have to respect their opinions because their opinions aren't based upon misinformation and lies.

Anyway, thanks Gina for starting my Friday out on the right foot.

Tags: seals, seal hunt, Newfoundland, Canada

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Blogger Parge said...

Hi Michael,

I responded to your comment on my blog post.

7:44 AM

Blogger Parge said...

Also, I should note that neither I nor Terry Glavin oppose the seal hunt. I may have a few criticisms of it but find no fault in the way seals are killed or in the regulations placed upon the swilers.

7:55 AM

Blogger MKB said...

Really, from your's and Terry' entry, I get the sense that you feel while the seal hunt is as humane or more humane than the way we kill most animals, you would support getting ride of many of these practices - not strictly seals but with other animals as well.

Is that a mistaken impression?


8:01 AM

Blogger Parge said...

I have no idea where Terry stands on that, so I can't comment. Myself, I'm opposed to the magic box that our food comes out of. I think we need to reconnect with the source of our food and take responsibility for it. As long as the seal hunt is transparent and sustainable, it's OK by me.

8:57 AM

Blogger MKB said...

I'm fairly confident that Terry states in his entry that if he had it his way, he'd end the hunt but not because of the reasons that are typical put forward by the animal rights groups.

As for your position, I'll be honest and say that the clear way you have here isn't what came across in your entry - which gave me more of the impression that you'd be okay with the end to many of these industries.

But I do appreciate that you have made your position much clearer here.

9:05 AM


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