Update on Canada: What New Year’s Fate for the Seals?
The online version of this article was updated with the new Prime Minister's name in March, 2006.
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans wrapped up its Seal Forum in November. Half of the Forum, which is historically used to help set seal kill quotas, went on behind closed doors. Reporters were asked to leave prior to the start of the session. 
Our autumn feature “What Next for Canada’s Hunted Seals?” questioned the participation of animal protection groups in this noxious affair. They’re beginning to take the cue.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has finally acknowledged the harm caused by participating and helping to design welfare regulations that are used to justify continued seal kills.
Less than two weeks before the November Forum began, Olivier Bonnet, the new director of IFAW Canada, publicly decided not to turn up.
Listed along with IFAW on the regrets letter to Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans were: the Animal Alliance of Canada; the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International; the Animal Protection Institute; and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, among others.
The groups wrote that their participation in the Seal Forum would provide “a false legitimacy to a staged event” that Canada’s government would “exploit.”
Are they finally waking up and smelling the coffee? IFAW acknowledges taking part in the Forum at least four times before, and producing hundreds of pages of documents on seals, welfare opinions, and hunt management recommendations. Rick Smith, as director of IFAW Canada, participated in the 2002 Forum — the meeting used to justify dispatching Newfoundlanders to kill nearly a million harp seals between 2003 and 2005.
The government has thrown seal-killing permits around like confetti: Up from 10,383 in 1995, it issued 13,777 permits in 2004. The kill, which public outrage seemed to doom 20 years ago, has made a comeback after setting welfare-minded restrictions on its most unpopular practices, such as the killing of newborn seals.
For years we’ve maintained that continued tweaking of the legal regulations — whether more training, or straighter shooting, or poking the seals in the eye, or smashing skulls before skinning — is all beside the point. The killing is simply immoral.
Unfortunately, the humane groups closed their letter with more of the old moral ambiguity, looking forward to the day when organizations “can assist” in “developing a sealing policy” that “protects the seals and the marine environment.”
Not only does such wording still imply an agreement that seals are mere commodities; it also ignores all animals but seals. Indeed, the U.S. Humane Society’s boycott against Canadian fish sales has only pitted the profit of one animal commodity against another, and is destined for a cyclical pattern.
Friends of Animals will continue to insist that Canada reinvigorate a depressed coastal economy in ways that acknowledge the importance of the biocommunity as an interconnected whole, and the inherent worth of all feeling beings.”
Patricia of México wrote to our Internet log:
I am happy to know that every day more people are coming together to help stop the killings. Everything is part of an all too predictable cycle of “exploit, deplete, and move on” which has characterized human commercial hunts of wild animals. …I would think that a country like Canada, civilized, modern, literate, and with vast natural resources and technology and scientific research, could find a different way for the people in these communities to make a living without depending on the life of the seal pups.
Patricia, we are sorry to inform you that fisheries minister Geoff Regan plans to proclaim yet another quota in early 2006, stating: “The commercial seal hunt is a humane, sustainable use of an abundant marine resource and ending it is not warranted.”
Please tell Canadian Consulate General Pamela Wallin and Prime Minister Paul Martin that ending the killing certainly is warranted. Ask them to have the government stop tossing seals at the coastal residents, and start formulating plans for a viable future for all. Contact:
Pamela Wallin, Canadian Consulate General
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY, USA 10020-1175
The Honourable Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa Ontario Canada K1A 0A2
- CNN Matthews Media Advisory: “DFO Holding 2005 Seal Forum” (4 Nov. 2005).
- As we go to press, Whole Foods Market still posts a statement that it will “provide the Canadian government input on the seal hunt issue at their Seal Forum” (website visited 11 Nov. 2005).
- Canadian Press, “East Coast Seal Hunt Opponents Boycott Forum on New Management Plan” - Working.com (8 Nov. 2005) (quoting Rob Sinclair, IFAW spokesperson).
- Rob Antle, “Forum Seeks Input on Hunt” - St. John's Telegram (8 Nov. 2005).
- IFAW employees have videotaped hundreds of incidents to show that workers don’t always apply the now-mandated eye blinking test to ascertain if the animal is dead before skinning. Now, veterinarians are suggesting a skull-crushing test.
- See “East Coast Seal Hunt Opponents Boycott Forum on New Management Plan” (note 3).