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March 31st, 2005


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08:08 am - I really need to go to Canada
Last night I was reading the paper, and I came across a story about the seal-hunt in Eastern Canada.

It was accompanied by the following picture, that really made me feel sick:


Caption: Hunters close in on a harp seal during a
commercial hunt on Canada’s Prince Edward Island in
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The United States bans
imports of seal products.


Honestly, I was entirely unaware that seals were still clubbed to death. It's become a kind of a joke, really. If someone does something that's utterly inhumane, they've done something like "club a baby seal". I honestly thought it was a relic of the past, something that wasn't done anymore, at least not legally.

Canada's government, of course, justifies it economically. The costal towns need the cash, they say. The hunt last year "made about $16.5 million last year, primarily from pelt sales to Norway, Denmark and China." The USA does not allow import of seal products, and I'm proud of my country for that.

I'm not worried about the killing of the seals, really. It's like deer in the US: if you don't hunt them, they over populate. In fact, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans noted that at around 5 million seals, this is almost a record population. Shooting them doesn't bother me.

But clubbing them for sport does. It's simply not necessary.

Heck, I'm not even really concerned about aboriginal and Inuit subsistence hunters clubbing the seals, actually. I have a hard time denying people who really want to live in the way of their ancestors the right to live that way. While yes, it's still inhumane and wasteful (and it's not like the Inuit or aboriginal humters are being more "reverent" about it), it is not sport: it's subsistence. It's life.

I have a very, very big problem with clubbing baby seals for fun and profit. A baby seal pelt is worth about $57. That's the highest price it's ever been. The demand is obviously there.

So I read through the article, which is pretty darn balanced, showing both sides. It talks to the protesters, it talks to the government and the independent fisheries. I'm fairly convinced, though, that I can't really pass judgement on the whole thing unless I go and see it for myself.
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: "Today's Message", -JB

(16 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:tlachtga
Date:March 31st, 2005 02:47 pm (UTC)
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I'm a typical urban, college-educated (and college-employed), latte-drinking, sushi-eating, alternative-listening, sandals-wearing liberal.

Now, having said that, I generally have no problem with hunting. I grew up in a rural area where hunting was a big deal--in rural Pennsylvania, the first day of deer hunting season is practically a holiday. A lot of those folks, however, get the meat butchered, so it's not just a sport, it's also food. Which, really, what's wrong with that? Better to hunt a deer that's been out living free and eat that then eat the penned-up, sad-life cowburger.

OK. My point here is that they shot the damn deer. Clubbing? Damn. That's barbaric. I mean, come on. Shoot the damn seal. Don't prolong the misery. Don't be sadistic.
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[User Picture]
From:tlachtga
Date:March 31st, 2005 04:55 pm (UTC)

Re: mostly playing devil's advocate...mostly.

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Well, gassing, lethal injection just seem impractical. I mean, if you could do it, yeah, I wouldn't have a problem necessarily.

I see what you mean about not damaging the pelt, but there's got to be a better way than clubbing.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:09 pm (UTC)

Re: mostly playing devil's advocate...mostly.

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Well, gassing them would require building gas chambers on the tundra, and I'm generally against building gas chambers for large numbers of things. It's kinda got some bad precedents for what it can be used for. Besides, it'd be rather expensive.

I suppose they could gas the critters one by one, but that wouldn't last long. It's too time-consuming.

More expensive, though, would probably be lethal injection. And can you imagine a bunch of vetrinary students running around there giving these things injections? Or would the hunters do it, untrained as they are in giving IV injections? Can you imagine hunters wanting to go through the trouble of doing it right? I imagine incomplete doses to save cash and time, which will leave the animals still being skinned alive.

So why shooting? Because I imagine that a hole or two from a rifle does much less damage to the coat than a club; you don't have to clean up as much blood ("There is blood all across the ice"); it's instant; and if you can get close enough to smash its head in, you can probably get close enough to fire a round into its head.

Besides, the result is the same, but I imagine it's quicker, more efficient, and over a lot faster for the seal. Some of them are still alive when they're skinned after being beaten. A shot to the head will prevent that.
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[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)

Re: mostly playing devil's advocate...mostly.

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Yes. I had considered the fact that guns are less common. I'm not up on my Canadian laws, so I don't know the extent, but I imagine that most serious hunters would still have one, right? And it wouldn't have to be a high-calibur weapon. I imagine, actually, that a small rifle would be ideally suited to this. Hell, if you can get close enough to hit a baby seal in the head, I imagine you can certainly get close enough to get a clear shot at it's skull.

Re: holes in the pelt, I'd have to suggest that a shot to the head is probably going to damage the parts least likely to be used in making a coat. Of course, I also have to admit that I have never made a coat from seal-skin (or seen a seal-skin coat), so I could be wrong: sightless eyes and noses that don't smell might be a fashion statement, in which case a bullet-hole in the head might be problematic. But honestly, I don't see a huge demand for faces on coats.

And yes, the fact that animals are not properly dispatched in slaughterhouses is equally sickening. However, I would argue that that particular issue is far less common than "seal carcasses as far as the eye can see" that "were moving around and breathing, that have been left in these piles, some left conscious and crawling." At least in a slaughterhouse, the anmial *always* ends up dead comparatively quickly (and the meat is used, unlike the meat of the seals, which is not used at all because it is neither tasty nor marketable, but that's a seperate argument).

I imagine that electrocution would have the added issue of having to actually run electricity out there, too. And if they did that, they'd have to industrialize the killing, too, because you'd have to take it to a centralized location to electrocute it. I'd have the same issue with that as I do with gas chambers, I think.
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[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC)

Re: mostly playing devil's advocate...mostly.

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Can't say as I have seen anyone shoot a squirrel with a .22. Perhaps my idea of what one can do is poorly represented, as I don't hunt.

But yes, the root of the problem is the demand, you're certianly right there.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC)

How Are the Seals Killed?

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I got this from Tina today:
The Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations, which govern the hunt, stipulate sealers may kill seals with wooden clubs, hakapiks (large ice-pick-like clubs) and guns. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, clubs and hakapiks are the killing implement of choice, and in the Front, guns are more widely used.

It is important to note that each killing method is demonstrably cruel. Because sealers shoot at seals from moving boats, the pups are often only wounded. The main sealskin processing plant in Canada deducts $2 from the price they pay for the skins for each bullet hole they find—therefore sealers are loath to shoot seals more than once. As a result, wounded seals are left to suffer in agony—many slip beneath the surface of the water where they die slowly and are never recovered.
She didn't cite a source, but yeah, you're losing $4/pelt for each shot (entry and exit wound).
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC)

Re: How Are the Seals Killed?

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Correction. This is from the US Humane Society's webpage.
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[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 06:26 pm (UTC)

Re: And here you go making my point for me

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True. In general, when something goes wrong in a slaughterhouse, it's much worse for the animal when people get up-close-and-personal.

Regarding risk to hunters, I'd say that good hunters don't need to worry so much about the risk, but then, I'm not envisioning these guys as the cream of the crop for some reason.
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From:odinkar
Date:March 31st, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, Rach and I received a press packet about this last fall. The ironic part about this is that they're expecting this year's "hunt" to be the largest ever because of all the publicity it's been getting from groups trying to stop it.

Good intentions, bad results.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:11 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Interesting how that is. Protests are, on the whole, ineffective sometimes.

Heck, if I were all sadistic and such and wanted to club baby seals, I'd know I could do it now. I didn't know before. I'd be packing my bags if I were into that sort of thing.
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From:hearthstone
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC)
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I had no idea that was still done, either. I wonder why we hadn't heard anything about it in so long, if it was still happening?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:48 pm (UTC)
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I really think that part of it is because we've reduced it to that joking status I mentioned. It's so "barbaric" and "inhumane" to us that we have somewhat relegated it to the past. It's something we did back when we were "barbaric" and "inhumane", which we aren't any longer.

Whether we do it now-adays or not, it's something that we don't think we do anymore. We've kind of created a reality where it doesn't happen, and our use of humour about it, like saying, "Yeah, you know me, clubber of baby seals," indicates that we do find it morally reprehensible, but yet we truly don't think it happens anymore.

I'm glad I saw that article. Very glad.
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From:kallisti
Date:March 31st, 2005 11:46 pm (UTC)
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The reason that you didn't hear about it for a while is that the numbers have been low in the past few years...Of course, the story is more complex than the baby-seal clubbing photo-op is.

Commercial Fishing in the Great Banks area off the coast of Newfoundland has been banned for a number of years since the Cod stocks have...well...virtuall disappeared. The fishermen blamed the demise of the cod stocks on the seals, who eat Cod, and the fact that the seal hunt was banned for a number of years.

So this year, the seal population was estimated to be the largest it has been in mnay years...so the government gave permission to cull the herd. To them, it solves two problems...keeps the fishermen off their back, and gives the fishermen some income to get them off the welfare roles for a while.

It's like they saying goes: "Although Government does small things badly, they do large things badly too."

ttyl
From:malacat
Date:March 31st, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC)

Yeah

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It's not actually the killing I'm opposed to, if they were all shot (by well trained marksman), I think I would be ok with it.

I just can't believe they still club them, and let them just kind of die from blood loss.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:March 31st, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Yeah

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Yes. There's a gut reaction to the clubbing that gets me. Shooting, I imagine, simply seems much more civilized, though my discussion above with triadruid is convincing me that it is probably not more humane.
[User Picture]
From:concordantnexus
Date:April 1st, 2005 02:53 am (UTC)
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Hmmm... I just thought of something skimming through everyone's posts here.

Would you shoot DOWN at a seal's head when both of you are ontop of ice-covered ocean? If the seals are lying on the ice, it's because someplace nearby it's thin enough that they can slip into the ocean...

---

Incidentally, I've been told that our gun-ownership rates are actually comparable to those of the US. Key differences is that most people don't collect guns and those that do keep everything under lock and key.

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