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How Whole Foods Market is Enabling Canada's Seal Hunt

September 04, 2005 | Seals

> “If it is determined that population control of the seals is necessary for the balance of the ecosystem and health of the seal population, then we will encourage the fisherman and the Canadian government to find more humane ways to achieve this.”

> -- Whole Foods Market website.

Whole Foods Market, promising “the best environmental choices for seafood,” is now invoking Canada’s annual seal slaughter on its online Products page.

The company explains that Canadian coast dwellers “kill baby seals in the off-season from fishing by clubbing them to death or shooting them primarily to sell their fur” and announces that it’s therefore featuring non-Canadian fish products, and “suspending any purchase of seafood from the areas where the brutal killing of baby seals is taking place until the fishermen commit to stopping this practice.”

This implies that it’s the coastal residents making the hunting decisions. In reality, it’s the government that sets a seal kill quota. Canada’s government must commit to stopping the killing of seals.

But what is Whole Foods Market saying to the Canadian government? Something to the effect of: “Oh, do stop, or we’ll hit you with a wet noodle!”

The upmarket grocer expressly defers to the Canadian government’s decisions about controlling the seal population -- having the gall to say that killing quotas, as determined by the Canadian government, would be for the seals’ own good -- and then assures customers it will “encourage the fisherman and the Canadian government to find more humane ways” to kill.

Why? Before Europeans settled the North American coast there were, according to the Green Party of Canada, some “24 million harp seals living in balance with so many fish that their abundance could impede the passage of ships.” Today, after decades of hunting, less than 5 million harp seals remain, and Canadian authorities appear to be on the verge of announcing a five-year plan which could involve the slaughter of more than a million animals.

And who will enable them to do it? This autumn, Whole Foods Market is providing “input” at the Canadian government’s Seal Forum. And for more information, Whole Foods Market sends visitors to the website of the Humane Society of the United States.

Friends of Animals takes an unequivocal stand against the seal hunt. Demand that Canada’s government stop using grocery marketers and welfare groups for cover. Call upon officials to end the hunt this year -- for good.

Politely but firmly make your views known to:

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street Ottawa
Ontario Canada, K1A 0A2
Facsimile: 1-613-941-6900

Pamela Wallin, Canadian Consul General to New York
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY United States 10020-1175
Telephone: 1-212-596-1628
Facsimile: 1-212-596-1790

Ask Canada to become a beacon of a humane global society by calling an immediate stop to the seal hunt. Because killing seals is not just cruel: it’s also immoral.

[Reference: Whole Food Market, “Products: Seafood: Seal Hunt Statement” (2005).]

[See also our feature in the Fall 2005 issue of Act•ionLine: What Next for Canada's Hunted Seals?]


We need to help the harp seals. I like how "Whole Foods Market" is not accepting products from those who hurt the seals. I think it would really help if everyone would be willing to mail the officials their opinion on the Seal crisis. SAVE THE HARP SEALS!!!

Hello, Harp Seal Friend. Thanks for writing. Something to keep in mind: If any grocer promotes the sale of seafood, note that, after the boycott, they are likely to just go back to exploiting the same marine animals whose depletion the Canadian government uses in the first place as a justification to kill seals. In other words, this is a cycle. The government views seals as competing with the fishmongers who supply restaurants and grocers. So a boycott on sea animals from Canada is not a real help to harp seals. We respect the lives of all marine animals. We won't leverage the lives of some against others. And note again the statement above. Within the pretense of saving seals from overpopulation, Whole Foods Market will encourage a more humane way of killing them. But exactly what is humane about killing a healthy nonhuman animal who lives fully and freely and has an interest in continuing to enjoy life? Don't let the seal hunt be used as a marketing tool by international businesses. They've been used enough. Please join us in respecting the interests of other animals in flourishing in the biocommunity, free of commercial exploitation. It is through this respect for seals, and other animals, that we can finally end the seal hunt. Thank you from all of us at Friends of Animals.

After reading this article I am ashamed to be Canadian.

I moved from Halifax to New Hampshire in 1992. When I moved to N.H. I continued getting petitions signed by Americans against the seal hunt in Canada and mailing them to your organization, Friends of Animals. It's now 2005 and I guess I will have to start embarassing the Canadian government again! I guess the only positive note is that there must still be some baby seals alive after all these years of slaughtering them! God love them! I miss my homeland but I am absolutely outraged and ashamed to call myself a Canadian. By the way, I don't agree with the war in Iraq. Your friend, Carmen Hearns

This is very disappointing to hear. If the animal welfare advocates are working against the animals for their own benefits, who can the people trust? How can we even trust that Friends of Animals is not just mentioning groups like IFAW and HSUS because they are their biggest competition? I don't know who to believe anymore. According to the HSUS and IFAW, their strategy is to boycott Canadian seafood while working on getting the Canadian government to ban this horrific event. Why do you say these groups are supporting the hunts? I wish everyone will put all politics aside and actually look out for these beautiful animals. It's a real shame we're not doing that. Blog editors' note: Hello to Ciro Monaco Jr. You ask some fair and important questions, and we hope to help to address them for you. You note that the HSUS and IFAW strategy is to boycott Canadian seafood while working on getting the Canadian government to ban this horrific event. That is correct, in part. They are asking for a boycott of the selling of regional marine life. But they are working with the Canadian government on welfare enhancements (poking the seals in the eye to be sure they are dead before skinning, and training the workers who kill the seals). What message does the government really get from that? It's not that the animal advocacy community is demanding an immediate ban. Because the government — and, ironically, the welfare advocates — focus so much attention on making minor reforms to the rules, the Canadian and global media reports have been distracted from the millions of hapless seals whose lives have been taken in the merciless name of commerce. We're asking for public demands, particularly Canadian residents demands, to stop the hunt outright. You ask how can readers know that Friends of Animals is not just mentioning groups -- IFAW, for example -- out of competition? Again, fair question. We have written about this in depth in our new feature, What Next for Canada's Hunted Seals? Putting the September Seal Forum in Context. As we note, the The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Whole Foods Market and other multinational players are about to sit down with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans to discuss the next plan to attack Newfoundland seals. Since the 1960s, when Friends of Animals began actively opposing the seal hunt, we have never engaged in negotiations over how the killing is to be carried out. We have never agreed to the hunt if it is seen as preventing a glut of seals and ensuring enough fish for Canadian industry. Or if it’s deemed humane. Ray Guy is not a member of Friends of Animals, but a writer living in St. John's who arrived at the killing scene as part of a government move to promote it. Guy has no competition incentive. In an article written for Canadian Geographic, Guy suggested that a key reason involves the role of seal protests as just another part of the business. Guy points out that the anti-hunt campaign run by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, with its hustle-bustle and its helicopters, is “critical to its image, if no longer to its business success.” Guy asks: “Do the helicopters signal, more than anything else, entrenched interests?”

I think that you need to check your facts. The last time I checked IFAW had not joined the Canadian Seafood Boycott but supports those who have. That is the difference between FOA and IFAW. You chose to discredit other's tactics because they differ from yours. I agree with Ciro Monaco Jr. and that politics should be put aside and we need to support each other. For the animals, Linda Dionne Blog editors' note: It was C Monaco Jr. who stated the fact that troubles you, Linda; but supporting a boycott is, in any case, precisely what a boycott is. And a temporary boycott will simply perpetuate the very reason for the hunt, because when people start up the fish-eating again, the Canadian government will declare that their aren't enough cod; seals will be blamed, and the dance goes on. You rightly note that there is a difference between many welfare groups and Friends of Animals. Since the 1960s, the members and supporters of Friends of Animals have been campaigning against the hunt -- full stop. Is it too much to ask that animal advocacy groups unequivocally oppose the Canadian seal hunt?

This is what you said and not anyone else: "They are asking for a boycott of the selling of regional marine life." You were referring to IFAW. This is not what IFAW is asking for. Again, get your facts straight. Unless I am wrong and they have joined the boycott since I checked last. If a boycott gets them to stop killing seals for 5 years or even 1 year I bet there are a lot of seals out there who would be thankful for that. And so won't the other sea creatures be thankful to Whole Foods and the other seafood sellers who joined the boycott and gave them a reprive from being killed. If they knew, that is. I know I would be thankful. For the animals, Linda Dionne

On October 11, 2005, Linda Dionne wrote: (....) If a boycott gets them to stop killing seals for 5 years or even 1 year I bet there are a lot of seals out there who would be thankful for that. Why is it so hard for people to simply stand up and say using and killing other beings is wrong? Why must welfarists always insist that there be a trade-off? Is it so hard to believe that other beings are not here for human use? My guess would be that using and killing other animals is within the moral framework of welfarists as long as it is done "humanely." There are millions of welfarists who appear to be consumed by the process of humane-use advocacy. What a pity because if they would stop wasting time doing what has not worked for over a century, they might open their eyes and hearts. They might realize that "humane-use" welfarism, more even then the user industries, is the major obstacle in the way of ending the suffering and death. I ask again, why not stand up for unqualified abolition --other animals are not ours to use --what is so difficult about that? Chris Kelly

Hi Linda, Initiating and supporting a boycott have the same objective, so there is little or no practical difference between who starts it and who supports it. Neither are addressing the immorality of using conscious beings as resources. Rather, in accepting the use of marine animals as seafood, the boycott accepts and employs exactly the same set of assumptions that motivates the seal kill. Leveraging the fundamental interests of some animals by selling or withholding sales of others at given times does not fit the moral principles of animal rights. We are for unity, but a principled unity based on the interests of the animals for whom we advocate. We would welcome community support for a principled stand here. Best regards, Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals

Hi again, Let's get the record straight first of all, I am an animal rights activist. I am a vegan and want empty cages not better cages. I joined and support the boycott because I believe that if Sea Shephard Society thinks this will end the killing my money is with them. If the boycott works and the killing stops and if, as you say, they will try to start it again then we fight that, then. And we keep fighting and fighting and fighting. Linda Dionne [ Blog editors' note: A recent article from the Montreal Gazette states: "The humane society is based in Washington, D.C., and has lobbied since March for a U.S. boycott of Canadian seafood - particularly the highly prized snow crab catches from Atlantic Canada - as an economic pressure tactic to stop the annual seal hunt." Linda, if the killing of seal stops, that means they will go back to killing the snow crabs. Apparently it is of no significance to animal rights, in your book, that killing does not stop. Apparently you do not think we ought to advocate for snow crabs, lobsters, and so forth. Apparently you deem such animals perfectly appropriate bargaining tools. Your point is made, and it is your prerogative to put your money anywhere you wish. We leave you free to do so. You can support us or not, but we have made a decision to stick with the ethics of this issue. Unlike economic gamesplaying, ethics lasts. Ethics teaches humans to respect the biocommunity rather than seeing it as various parts, which are then perceived as resources. Rather than bargaining, cajoling, and wrestling with the coastal residents to try to make them kill certain members of the marine community rather than others, we shall continue to press the government to stop supporting this killing; we shall press the Canadian government to change its policies in order to give real economic support to Newfoundland. This is the way to resolve the conflict in a way that lasts. Ultimately, people have the final say. We must work to hasten the day that a critical mass of the Canadian populace is empowered by awareness to act, and to pressure the government to stop bargaining over marine life. We hope that happens before the marine life is gone.]


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