Saturday, March 04, 2006

The seal hunt

Anyone catch Paul and Heather McCartney drubbing Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams on Larry King Live about the upcoming March seal hunt or 'harvest' ?
Right off the top Williams brings up 9/11, and how 13,000 stranded Americans found homes for a week in Newfoundland and Labrador, homes with sealers and their families.
And how he and his daughters are animal lovers.
So, a little defensive then.

And he was more than a little creepy later in his response to Heather McCartney's complaint that the seals are killed just for fashion while their meat is left on the ice to rot and King's question as to why Canada doesn't forgo this 'harvest' in favour of eco-tourism.
Williams :
"These organizations, the IFAW, Green Peace, PETA raise significant amounts of money. There are hundreds of millions of dollars that are being raised by these organizations.And let me tell you the FBI right now have a file opened in their terrorism division investigating organizations like this, including the PETA organization, from a terrorism perspective."
Obviously Williams was confusing eco-tourism with eco-terrorism here.

So there's a universal moratorium on even mentioning opposition to the seal hunt if you've ever so much as eaten a boiled egg in your life. And it was a lot of work twenty years ago to get the minimum age at which baby seals can be killed up to 12 days, where it stands now.
Plus who wants to be labelled a weepy bleeding heart who is swayed by celebrities and cares more about cuteness than income for out-of-work fishermen?

I'll take that label.
Cuteness - If we can't respond to the needless slaughter of baby animals that appeal to us, how well are we going to do when confronted with the slaughter of frogs or spiders? Not too well so far. Let's start with the seals and work out from there.
Income - Fishermen have certainly been royally fucked around by the Canadian government and Premier Danny Williams is right to defend them as best he can. So why not eco-tourism? Why not take the Canadian taxpayers' money that Fisheries and Oceans Canada now spends on "aerial patrols, surface (vessel) patrols, dockside inspections of vessels at landing sites and inspections at buying and processing facilities. In 2004, Fishery Officers spent approximately 8600 hours monitoring and enforcing the hunt. In the last five years, 94 charges were laid and convictions were upheld in 57 of those cases" and invest it in jobs in eco-tourism for fishermen instead?
Celebrities - Robert Thurman, the early Buddhist campaigner for public awareness on the plight of Tibet, was once asked how he could countenance support from frivolous celebrities like Richard Gere. I have to paraphrase Thurman's answer because I can't find the quote, but it was something along the lines of - 'Celebrities already have everything they could ask for - money, fame, security, recognition in their field and all their needs taken care of. They are therefore perfectly situated to think about what's really important in the world.'

Thanks for listening.



Anonymous said...

Williams totally bullshitted his way through that whole thing. The veterinarians were not pleased with their findings and clubbing is still used - and is reportedly better than shooting from a distance.
Good catch on how he confused eco-terrorism with eco-tourism.

Derek Richards said...

I watched the whole thing and even taped it.

I'm a big fan of both Paul McCartney and Danny Williams. I loved that Danny Williams went toe to toe with the other Paul not too long ago over offshore revenues.

I have to say that I didn't know the seal hunt continued in Canada, so I am greatful that Paul and Heather shone a light on it.

I didn't see any reason put fourth by the Premier as to why this hunt should continue.

I am of the opinion however, that natural materials used in textiles are far more eco-friendly than anything synthetic.

I wondered why Heather felt proud to be wearing plastic boots as opposed to a natural material, I just think that manufacturing plastic is far more damaging to the earth than the killing of a few hundred seals.

Paul Vincent said...

(1) Overfishing has had a lot written on it. Paul McCartney has read none of the scientific reports or the sociological reports. Overfishing was a product of foreign trawling and stocks continue to diminish because of this. Canadian ships are small and use traditional nets, barely enough to even put a dent into the current fisheries. Foreign trawlers use large illegal nets in international waters catching cod as they prepare to spawn. McCartney came off as being ignorant and blaming Newfoundland when properly Britain had a large role in the decline of the fisheries made him look foolish and ill-informed.
(2) Eco-tourism is not a large industry. In Newfoundland whale-watching and iceberg watching will generate $2M a year. Seals cannot possibly reach anywhere near that. Seals are around Newfoundland in the spring, not in the summer. So immediately there will be around 1M people less going to see it. Secondly seals make $8M a year. Ecotourism can not possibly match up for the costs suffered through the seal hunt.
(3) Seals were predicted to die by this year had the seal hunt not started. The seals have no natural predators other than humans and because of this they would have died off because of too much growth. McCartney refused to admit that it is a sustainable industry.
(4) Without the seal hunt 200 fisherman (thats 200 families) are sent back into poverty. If the super wealthy Paul McCartney really wanted sealers to stop sealing he would just pay them to stop.

freshly_squeezed said...

Great post. Just discovered your blog after you posten on mine - it's in my bookmarks now.

Keep on rockin' :)

Anonymous said...

Balanced Nature Not Balanced ARA's check books


Canadian veteranarian study

Seal killing 8 foot sturgeon

Video of dead fish on bay from seals

Real reason

Meet your meat

Alison said...

Paul Vincent
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Here are my responses to them.
1)No quarrel with you as to the raw deal given Atlantic fishermen, as I mentioned clearly in my original post.
McCartney's rhetorical appeal to emotion did not need to cover the root causes of the problem, however hypocritical that may seem to you, in order to be effective. He pretty well only needed to point out to Canadians that the seal hunt is still going on in order to win his point.
2)According to, tourism brings in $800 million a year to Newfoundland Labrador, with eco-tourism accounting for the fastest growing segment of it. By comparison, sealing brings in $22 million per year and is declining despite the rise in price of seal skins.
Where I live, Paul, friends with small boats who were previously fish guides are now whale guides because the money is better and the work is easier.
The argument here is that the Canadian taxpayer dollars going into promoting and marketing seal skins should be put to better use finding more decent employment for off-season fishermen in your $800 million a year and growing tourism industry.
3)I cannot find any accounting for the need to cull seal herds aside from that of the Atlantic fishing industry so I cannot answer this point. But sustainable? Given such an expanded definition of sustainability, slavery is sustainable.
I sat here trying to think of a less emotionally charged analogy than slavery of a human profit-making endeavor that we have given up on the grounds of moral repugnance, and I couldn't because all the profit-making endeavors that we have given up on moral grounds are by definition emotionally charged. One day I hope the seal hunt will join them.
4)I am assuming from your reading list on your own blog that you are a libertarian (and please correct me if I am wrong about this). Accordingly it would not seem to be incumbent upon McCartney to buy off the seal trade no matter how wealthy he is. But it is incumbent on those of us who as taxpayers pay to support this industry, and that is what I am proposing Canadians should account for.
In closing, I would just like to mention that I have far more respect for Danny Williams than I do for Paul McCartney, but it is McCartney nonetheless who is right here.
We watch the video of the 2004 seal hunt that was shown on tv in Denmark and we are disgusted. We have to find these sealers a better way to feed their families.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I have never been more proud to be a Newfoundlander than after watching our premier defend the actions of the people of this province. Not only was he factual and well informed, he knows because he "actually lives here". The McCartneys seemd to think they were in Newfoundland when in actual fact they were in PEI. Talk about misinformed and undereducated about their cause....I also think that Heather showed how ignorant she was to the actual subject by refusing to hear the oppositions points. Way to go Danny Williams, you have done us VERY proud!

Anonymous said...

I am from Newfoundland and I am no big fan of the seal hunt myself but the things being said about the people of Newfoundland is absolutely horrendous. Everyone is calling us barbarians and I read on one website a woman said she wished a tsuanmi would come and wipe up out.Ouch. People can say what they want about the seal hunt but I'd wish they would stop saying hateful things about the people of this province especially since most of us don't hunt seals.

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