Shortly after 6 a.m. this morning the first baby seal died. Horribly.  At the hands of a commercial sealer as part of the annual taxpayer-funded commercial seal slaughter, also known as the Great White North Make-Work Welfare Project Scheme for Commercial Sealers.  The proud tradition of the government using taxpayer money to pay loutish fishermen to beat and shoot to death as many baby seals as they can, as quickly as they can, as cruelly as they can.  It’s a great day out with the lads for these knuckle-draggers, an opportunity to drink a few beers, tell a few jokes and beat a few baby seals to death.  And why do they do it?  Simply put, “for the love of it.

This year it couldn’t possibly be any more glaringly obvious just what a huge farce the commercial seal hunt is.  Despite no demand for the grisly products of this slaughter, and market prospects at an all-time low, the killing went ahead with the government paying someone to buy and stockpile the skins.  Despite years of increasingly bad sea ice resulting in alarmingly high pup mortality rates, the killing went ahead with no kill limits.   Despite DFO’s claims the hunt is monitored and enforced, the killing went ahead with no monitoring or enforcement by DFO or other government authorities!

No Markets

Demand for seal products has been steadily diminishing, with trade bans established in the United States, European Union, Russia and other nations.  Last year the value of the commercial seal hunt was barely $1M.  In fact, market prospects are so dismal the slaughter this year is proceeding only because for the second year in a row the Newfoundland government paid seal processor Carino to purchase and stockpile (or, more likely, destroy) the skins, despite claims that company repaid the $3.6M “loan” from last year.  Nobody seems to want to answer the question: If Carino sold last year’s stockpile of seal skins and blubber, and repaid last year’s loan in full, why does it need a further $3.6M?

Oddly enough, at the same time Carino is being lavished with a $3.6M gift, handout, subsidy, loan, Newfoundland’s Department of Tourism had its budget cut by $4M.  Coincidence?  Unlikely.  I guess the government of Newfoundland thinks a crumbling unprofitable brutal industry that relies on annual handouts to survive is more important than the province’s tourism industry…

No Quota

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans claims its seal management is “science-based” using the “precautionary approach”.  Yet no quota was set for this year.  No Total Allowable Catch, or kill limit, was set.  Basically this year it’s a free-for-all bloodbath with sealers being allowed to kill as many seal pups as they can find.  This is especially troubling given reports from Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International that she is seeing the worst ice conditions she has ever witnessed. In 2007, the first year I traveled to Newfoundland to witness the commercial seal slaughter for myself, DFO had estimated pup mortality in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was close to 100%.  However, DFO still allowed sealers to pick off the few surviving pups as they clung to rapidly shrinking ice pans.  On her blog, Live from the Ice, which documents her 15th year documenting the slaughter, Rebecca says:

As we fly over the harp seal nursery, we are seeing the worst sea ice conditions I have ever witnessed here. Where there should be solid sea ice there is just open water and tiny, broken ice pans. But the slaughter goes on, with the sealers shooting every seal pup they find.

Research published in the journal PLoS Biology expressed concerns for the future of the harp seal population given deteriorating ice conditions over the past 30 years. Seals rely on sea ice to birth and nurse their young. In recent years, ice melted early, resulting in a large number of pups drowning.

Because seals do not reach breeding age until approximately six years, the effects of over-hunting and climate change are only now beginning to be apparent. DFO has an appalling track record for marine conservation and has been accused of making decisions based on political expediency rather than conservation. It is feared that by the time DFO acknowledges the harp seal population is in trouble, it will be too late.

No Monitoring

Another claim DFO makes is that the commercial seal hunt is “closely monitored and tightly regulated.”  In past years monitoring and enforcement of the Regulations has been virtually non-existent.  This year it appears DFO is not even bothering to make a pretense of monitoring or enforcing the slaughter.  Rebecca reported:

We see no enforcement people, no Canadian government officials, no other NGOs. It is just us. Our helicopter and our cameras are the only defense these seals have, the only way to show the world what is happening so that we can bring it to an end.

So where is the close monitoring and tight regulation?  Non-existent.  Just another MYTH the Canadian government includes in its official Seal Hunt Propaganda Package it flogs on its website.

I had to steel myself to watch the video from the first day of the slaughter.  It is heartbreaking to see these animals treated so cruelly and to be powerless to do anything to help them.  Pups shot in the face and left to suffer; pups obviously still conscious being stabbed through the face with metal hooks and hauled onto sealing boats…I’ve seen it all too many times myself in the years I observed the commercial seal hunt in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  It breaks my heart that seal pups are still dying horrible deaths at the hands of these brutal sealers.  But I do take a bit of comfort in the knowledge that fewer pups are dying, and fewer still will die in future as we all work together to spread the truth and to shut down the cruel sealing industry forever.

Warning:  This video contains graphic content.  I firmly believe that anyone who can watch this and insist the commercial seal hunt is humane and acceptable has something seriously wrong with them. And they wonder why people call them barbarians….

VIDEO:  Canada’s 2013 Baby Seal Slaughter Begins


Liberal Senator Mac Harb (Photo: THE MARK)

Today history was made in Ottawa.  Liberal Senator Mac Harb’s private member bill calling for the end of Canada’s commercial seal hunt was unanimously approved to pass for second reading.  Putting an end to Canada’s cruel and wasteful commercial seal hunt will FINALLY be debated in the Senate!

This is Senator Harb’s third attempt to get the bill through.  In 2010 He failed to find a seconder and the motion died a swift death.  In 2011 it was reported that Conservative Senator Lowell Murray seconded the motion but other senators voted against allowing the proposal to appear for discussion on the order paper.  Senator Harb, undeterred, returned for a third attempt and this time the motion was seconded by liberal Senator Larry Campbell and was then passed unanimously to move forward for second reading and debate.

Senator Harb’s bill calls for an end to the commercial seal hunt and compensation to be given to sealers.  The bill does not target or affect the Inuit subsistence hunt which is also exempt from the EU trade ban on seal products.

Reaction to this momentous event has been swift.  Humane Society International/Canada issued the following statement:

Senator Harb’s bill is timely and would effectively end the commercial seal slaughter in Canada. HSI/Canada further proposes that any legislation to end the seal slaughter be paired with a federal sealing industry buyout. This plan would involve the federal government ending the commercial seal slaughter, providing immediate compensation to sealers and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved. Polling shows half of sealers holding an opinion are already in support of this plan and the overwhelming majority of Canadians are willing to fund it. Given sealers and other Canadians are willing to move beyond commercial sealing, it is time our government acted.”

The Green Party of Canada issued a press release which stated:

“The sealing industry had been dying for years,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “It’s time to stop providing life support to this disappearing industry by ending the massive government subsidies. Taxpayers’ money is better spent creating sustainable economic opportunities in coastal communities.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare issued the following statement:

Senator Harb’s bill is supported by public opinion polls that repeatedly show the majority of Canadians would like to see an end to the commercial seal hunt.  At the very least, the Canadian government should debate this issue on behalf of those citizens. It’s time.

When asked about the chances of the bill ultimately being passed, Senator Harb replied, “I’m a realist. I do believe the government and the Senate will not allow me to get it through. But I want to get the discussion going, whether they like it or not. That’s democracy.“   Whether or not this bill is ultimately successful, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind this marks a turning point in Canada.  As the Chronicle Herald pointed out:  “But the bill is another hint that the days of unwavering loyalty to the seal hunt are coming to an end.” 

Reaction from the pro-sealing camp has also been swift.  Sealing industry representatives have spoken against calls to end the unprofitable seal hunt, claiming Canada’s sealing industry is “very much alive and well.”  They provide some disingenuous facts to back up those dubious claims.

Here, they neglect to mention the profits and exports have been declining with each passing year.  In 2011 the seal hunt brought in under $1 million, a figure dwarfed by the millions of dollars the Canadian government spends each year to subsidize the annual slaughter.  As well, substantial markets to seal products have closed since 2005.  The EU banned seal products in 2010 and Russia – which accounted for 90% of exports – banned sealskins last August.  Markets in China, long-promised by the Canadian government, have not materialized.

Hmmmm, just a tad misleading to claim sealskin prices have increased this year when the Newfoundland government gave $3.6M to a processing company to buy all the seal skins to stockpile in case markets pick up in future!  And let’s not forget the sum in excess of $17,000 the government paid a St. John’s furrier to shill sealskin at a recent international fur expo at which the only country present that did have a trade ban on seal products was Canada!!

In my opinion, an industry with a dwindling profit margin relying on subsidies from Canadian taxpayers and bailouts from the federal and provincial governments just to keep afloat is clearly NOT “alive and well.”  In my opinion, that is a drain on taxpayers should should be ended.

But of course Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette is blaming it all on the Vegetarian Lobby armed with pointy carrots and a secret agenda to turn the world into tofu-eating tree-huggers. And she also wants to market seal meat for our cats and dogs.  Oh Senator.  Don’t you remember?  They tried feeding seal meat to minks on fur farms.  The minks all died.

A frank and honest discussion about Canada’s cruel and wasteful commercial seal hunt is long-overdue.  Let’s start talking!

Science has been cancelled: Health of our oceans & harp seals sacrificed for east coast votes

There is a DFO letter making the rounds online, defending the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which was set at an unsustainably high 400,000 last week.  The letter is signed by Morley Knight, Director-General of Resource Management at DFO, and attempts to mislead convince the public the TAC was set “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach.” 

It’s not surprising DFO has gone into repair mode in response to the bashlash to the news the Fisheries Minister had ignored the advice of his own scientists and had set the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch at the request of sealing industry executives.  Both IFAW and HSI condemned the TAC.  My own letter, representing Atlantic Canadians, was published in four newspapers.

Nor is it surprising a government bureaucrat signed the editorial defending the TAC; it is highly unlikely any of the ignored scientists would agree to put their name on such a work of fiction.

Mr. Knight seems to be in denial of two concrete irrefutable facts: 

(1)  The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat concluded in its most recent Science Advisory Report the harp seal herd is in decline and the 2012 TAC should not exceed 300,000, as anything higher would not respect DFO’s management plan; and

(2)  DFO clearly stated the 400,000 TAC was guided in part by “the unanimous recommendation of industry representatives.”

Setting TACs to appease the sealing industry while ignoring scientific advice is not “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach,” although Mr. Knight seems to expect the public to believe it is.

DFO has a long history of basing conservation decisions based on political expediency rather than science.  DFO mismanaged cod into commercial extinction and has consistently failed to protect endangered species such as porbeagle shark and sockeye salmon for “socio-economic” reasons. Now it is placing the future of harp seals at risk.

Sealer about to beat to death 2- or 3-week old pup still almost completely covered in whitecoat Photo: Sheryl Fink/IFAW 2012

I was reading an article in the Ottawa Citizen this morning detailing how the government’s failure to set start dates for the commercial seal hunt in Newfoundland was causing wide-spread concern for the problems it would pose for rural towns along the east coast.  Featured in the article were doomsday-style quotes by Canadian Sealers Association executive Frank Pinhorn and Bonavista Mayor Betty Fitzgerald.  There were warnings about rapidly expanding hordes of voracious harp seals patrolling the coastline devouring all the cod and dire predictions that if the the hordes weren’t ”controlled” (read: slaughtered via club, hakapik and rifle) the fish would disappear and so would all the jobs on the east coast.

It is difficult to discern if Pinhorn and Fitzgerald are honestly deluded about seals and cod, or are guilty of wilfully spreading misinformation. In any event, both are incorrect in their recent statements to media.

Pinhorn speaks of the “growing seal population,” claiming it is at a record-high of nine to 10 million, while Fitzgerald insists the seal population must be controlled to protect fish stocks. Both Pinhorn and Fitzgerald need to read the latest Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat’s Science Advisory Report in which DFO scientists Mike Hammill and Garry Stenson advise the harp seal population is declining, with a current population of approximately 7 million individuals, and accordingly, the Total Allowable Catch should be reduced by 25%.  There has never been credible science supporting these wild claims that seals are preventing fish stocks from rebounding after years of gross human overfishing.  In fact, for those who bother investigating the issue, there is an emerging wealth of information to the contrary.

Fitzgerald and Pinhorn are guilty of the sort of irresponsible scaremongering that promotes the misconception seals must be culled to protect fish stocks. In truth, science indicates seals play an important role in our complex marine ecosystem and should be protected for the overall health of our oceans. Fitzgerald and Pinhorn would do well to quit the melodrama and stick to the facts.

In terms of claims that “lack of an April seal hunting season could pose a problem for rural towns along the coast,” the only problem the cancellation of the 2012 Newfoundland harp seal hunt poses is the sealers would miss out on their annual beer-swilling baby seal-bashing social event.  As one sealer told Paul Watson years ago, “Every year we gets to go out on the ice, get away from the old lady, drink beer with the boys and whack seals” and as sealer Desmond Adams told media a few years ago, “We all go out for the love of it rather than the money, which isn’t there anymore.”  This is not a commercial seal hunt or a hunt for subsistence – this is a yearly social event for people who love beating and shooting to death screaming seal pups.  And Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill.  That, to me, is a very real problem.

Fisheries Minister: "I don't care what this science paper says! The sealers want to kill lots of baby seals and that's good enough for me!" Photo: CBC

Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield has blatantly ignored the advice of his own scientists in setting the 2012 Total Allowable Catch for harp seals at an unsustainable 400,000.

In December of 2011 DFO Research Scientist and Head of Marine Mammal Section Mike Hammill concluded the harp seal population was declining due in part to lack of sea ice and reduced rate of reproduction.  As a consequence, Hammill recommended a 25% reduction in the TAC, advising anything in excess of 300,000 would be unsustainable.

According to DFO, the 400,000 TAC was guided in part by “the unanimous recommendation from industry representatives.”  In short, the Fisheries Minister ignored the advice of his own scientists and set the unsustainable TAC at the request of sealing/fishing industry lobbyists.

This is not the “science-based precautionary approach” to fisheries management DFO claims to take.  This is a blatant sacrifice of our marine ecosystem to buy east coast votes.  This is concrete proof DFO’s decisions are based on politics rather than science, and once again our oceans will suffer as a result.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield must call an immediate halt to the commercial seal hunt and save our marine ecosystem which has been severely damaged by years of DFO mismanagement.

Harp seal pup, Cape Breton, 2009 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

Tomorrow is International Day of Action for Seals, with demonstrations being held across Canada, in the US, and around the world to show opposition to the slaughter of seals in countries such as Canada and Namibia.

Some may be saying: “It is 2012, why has this slaughter not been shut down yet?!”  You need to read this inspiring blog by IFAW’s Sheryl Fink, which shows the giant strides the anti-sealing campaign has made in the past few years, and the huge victories won for seals.

I first got directly involved in the seal hunt issue in 2006 and am amazed at the accomplishments of the past six years and deeply touched by the generosity, compassion and dedication of so many around the world battling on to win protection for seals.  We are very close to ending the cruel slaughter once and for all!

Here are a few actions you can take to help protect seals on the International Day of Action for Seals:

1. Attend a demo or rally in your area. Rallies are being held across Canada, the US and internationally.  A list can be found on Facebook HERE.

2.  Tell your MP to protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to transition out of this dying industry. Canadians can use THIS FORM to quickly and easily email their Member of Parliament to urge them to protect seals and to show real support by sealers by helping them to transition out of the industry.

3.  Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the commercial seal hunt. The majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal hunt, yet each year the Harper government lavishes millions of our tax dollars on the annual slaughter.  If you live in Canada please use THIS FORM – if you live outside of Canada, please use THIS FORM – to send an email asking him to respect the wishes of Canadians and stop the slaughter.

4.  Tell Canadian Ambassador to US Gary Doer to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Please use THIS FORM to send a message to Gary Doer urging him to listen to people around the world, protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to get out of the crumbling sealing industry.

5.  Send an email thanking the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus for passing their own seal product ban. The world was shocked when it was discovered recently the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus had implemented a ban on import and export of harp seal skins.  This was a major blow to the Canadian sealing industry, as Russia was the largest purchaser of Canadian harp seal skins, representing 90% of the market for pelts.  The Canadian government is now pressuring Russia to reverse its ban.   Now is the time to send a quick message of thanks to those countries and urging them to stand firm in the face of bullying from the Canadian government.  Use THIS FORM to let them know the world stands united with them in their efforts to protect defenseless seals from a horrific fate.

Grey seal pups, Hay Island, 2010 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

6.  Send an email to the Canadian Senate to urge protection for Grey Seals. The Senate Committee on Fisheries & Oceans is currently conducting a “study” on a proposed large-scale cull of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It is rumoured Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield advised the Committee he wants it to recommend a cull regardless of their findings.  Send Committee members a reminder that the decision should be made based on SCIENCE, not POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY, and no credible science supports a grey seal cull.  In fact, leading Canadian scientists strongly advise against such a cull!  Use THIS FORM to send your email to Senate Committee members.

7.  Boycott Canadian Seafood. Sealers are commercial fishermen who kill seals for a bit of extra cash in the closed season.  The Canadian government was the inspiration for the Canadian seafood boycott running successfully in the US and Europe when a government official stated it would end the commercial seal hunt when fishermen asked it to do so. Please add your name to the list of those boycotting Canadian seafood until the commercial seal hunt is ended.

Dingwall sealer Robert Courtney chasing terrified seal pups with rifle on provincial nature reserve Hay Island, 2011 Photo: R. Aldworth/HSI Canada

The Humane Society of the United States recently unveiled a new iPhone app that enables users to locate restaurants and food suppliers who boycott Canadian seafood products until such time as the commercial seal hunt is ended by the Canadian government.  John Grandy, Ph.D., senior vice president of wildlife for The HSUS, said “With the launch of this new iPhone app, consumers have a quick and easy way to bring their economic power to bear against this annual slaughter.”

Reaction to the new app was swift.  A spokesperson for Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield dismissed the app as simply a “recycled campaign of  ‘old tricks’ and ‘misinformation.’” and then proceeded to dish out liberal amounts of misinformation, herself.

Perhaps the most bizarre reaction was from Nova Scotia sealer Robert Courtney, who complained the Canadian seafood boycott was unfair in that it targeted fishermen not connected to the sealing industry.  “There’s some seafood producers in Canada that don’t do anything with the seal hunt, don’t have any connections with the seal hunt, so why would they be boycotting those people?  That alone tells about (their) credibility.”

Dingwall sealer Robert Courtney shooting terrified seal pups inches from each other on Hay Island, 2011 Photo: R. Aldworth/HSI Canada

If Robert Courtney wants to blame someone for the Canadian seafood boycott, the finger of blame can be pointed directly at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  A DFO official inspired the boycott when he stated the Canadian government would consider ending the commercial seal hunt if fishermen asked it to do so.

Sealers are primarily fishermen who fish other species at other times of the year and who kill seals as an off-season activity for extra pocket money.   If fishermen believe they are being unfairly penalized for the actions of a small number of their members, they should speak up and demand the Canadian government bans the cruel and unprofitable seal hunt which taints the entire fishing industry and, indeed, the entire country.

Courtney also claimed that although anti-sealing campaigns have reduced world markets for seal products seal population must still be controlled, regardless of whether or not there is a market for them. “Sealers would prefer to be able to go harvest a seal and fully utilize the animal and we’ve put a lot of man hours and a lot of effort into doing that,” he said, noting they’ve done everything “possible to have a sustainable, humane harvest.”

Robert Courtney is guilty of misleading the public when he refers to the commercial seal hunt as “sustainable” and “humane.”  Having researched this issue for years and having personally witnessed the annual killing, I can assure readers it is neither of those things.

The ProtectSeals Canadian Seafood Boycott app can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store by searching for “protect seals.”

I was absolutely sickened last night watching the hostile reception Dr. David Lavigne received from the Canadian Senate Committee of Fisheries & Oceans (“FOPO”).  FOPO had been tasked by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to investigate the necessity/feasibility/wisdom of a proposed large-scale grey seal cull on Canada’s east coast and to then deliver its recommendations to him.

Cape Breton Sen Mike MacDonald gives speeches about harp seals & waxes lyrical about the good old days when he was a boy in provincial capital of grey seal slaughters, Cape Breton

Interestingly, after many hours of “evidence” by Newfoundland and Magdalen Island sealers, fur industry executives and government bureaucrats from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and DFO, and Fur Institute of Canada board member/veterinarian Pierre-Yves Daoust (who expressed grave concerns about a grey seal cull both from animal welfare and public health standpoints), the Committee has spent more time talking about harp seals and commercial markets than it has talking about grey seals and culls!  In fact, on November 15th Newfoundland sealers presented to FOPO for two hours at the end of which presentation they apologized for not being able to talk about grey seals because their expertise was harp seals, not grey seals!  Bizarrely, Magdalen Island sealers smuggled harp seal meat into Ontario (an illegal act) to present as a gift to FOPO members!  More alarmingly, the Magdalen Island sealers talked about shooting seals in open water, a practice condemned by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association because of the high incidents of struck-and-lost (seals being wounded and lost in the water to die slowly)!

After weeks of “evidence” from sealers and government bureaucrats, no science had been discussed.  DFO claims its decisions are science-based yet has no science to support a seal cull.  In fact, no science exists to support claims seals must be killed to protect fish stocks.  To the contrary, there is a wealth of evidence to support claims seals are responsible for the collapse of cod or the failure for ground fish stocks to rebound.  Consequently, FOPO has heard no science during its presentations, one can only assume because the credible science didn’t support its mandate – to recommend a grey seal cull.

Last night, however, they finally had the science presented to them.  And they did NOT like it.   Their reaction was like that of disgruntled children who were being made to eat all their vegetables or told they would have to go to school on a Saturday.

Newfoundland Sen Ethel Cochrane bizarrely seemed to hold Dr. Lavigne responsible for muskrats being shot in Europe & asked questions better directed to a Human Resources Director than a Scientist!

David Lavigne is science advisor to International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and has studied seals for 45 years.  He gave a well-informed presentation providing papers written by international and Canadian scientists, stating there are signs seal predation is assisting ground fish stock recovery and warning a cull is a risky undertaking given the important role seals play in our marine ecosystem.  After the presentation, FOPO members began asking questions of Dr. Lavigne and it very quickly got out of hand.

Rather than listen to the scientific arguments against a grey seal cull, FOPO members ridiculed Dr. Lavigne, asked him exceedingly stupid and irrelevant questions about muskrats being shot in Europe, why IFAW moved its office and how many staff members the organization had, whether Dr. Lavigne believed FOPO should listen to science or sealers, whether Dr. Lavigne was a vegetarian, and even accused him of being involved in the anti-sealing campaign because it made him lots of money!

At one point while addressing a question about seal worms, Dr. Lavigne referenced Iceland. Senator Michael MacDonald from Cape Breton (prime grey seal slaughter territory where grey seal pups are killed annually on islands, including a nature reserve) flew into an apoplectic rage, shouting Iceland was not relevant and insisting Dr. Lavigne stick to the topic of grey seals in Canada.  This was rich, considering he’d spent weeks giving speeches about harp seals and commercial markets and waxing lyrical about when he was a boy back in the good old days – you can’t get much more irrelevant that that in a hearing about a grey seal cull!!!!

In fact, Senator MacDonald’s rudeness and arrogance was breathtaking.  At one point, he waved away a detailed diagram of our ocean’s complex food web, saying, “That’s a piece of paper, sir. That’s not the real world.”

When Dr. Lavigne was quoting scientific studies, MacDonald grumbled petulantly, “It seems to me your science is the only science that matters!” to which Dr. Lavigne responded that it wasn’t HIS science; it was the science of international scientists and even some DFO scientists.” MacDonald unsurprisingly ignored this fact and continued to complain childishly that Dr. Lavigne’s science was “the only science that matters.”

Olympic skier-turned-Senator Nancy Greene Raine believes a large-scale slaughter of grey seals should be allowed on Sable Island, Canada's newest National Park! She also thinks disease-ridden seal meat is a "wonderful protein."

Senator MacDonald later complained to media about Dr. Lavigne’s presentation, saying “It’s all misdirection,” he said. “It’s all a shell game with these people. It’s all about avoiding the issue.”  Again, it’s rich for a FOPO Senator to accuse a scientist presenting on the subject of grey seals of avoiding the issue!

In my opinion, FOPO showed its hand last night.  It is clear to many now that FOPO had its mind made up before meeting with any parties for these presentations.  It is clear to many now that when Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield asked FOPO to look into the matter he in fact instructed FOPO members to recommend a cull regardless of any evidence they may hear during the proceedings.

FOPO is rotten to the core, as is Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  This investigation is a sham and the Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill.  As per usual, Canadian taxpayers pay through the nose for seals to be slaughtered.

Dr. Lavigne has provided FOPO with a list of scientists with whom members should confer, including leading Canadian marine biologist Boris Worm who has spoken against a proposed grey seal cull.  Will FOPO meet with these scientists?  Will FOPO members actually review scientific evidence warning against a grey seal cull?

FOPO has been warned a large-scale grey seal cull is a risky proposition and members should be prepared for unforeseen catastrophic consequences of such an action.  Will FOPO give second sober thought to their mandate to recommend a grey seal cull regardless of evidence advising against it?  If FOPO recommends a cull, are members willing to take responsibility for the final collapse of our marine ecosystem which will almost certainly occur as a result?

If you are as outraged as I am about the bias of FOPO and its aggressive treatment of Dr. Lavigne, please take a moment to send FOPO members an email telling them what you think of their behaviour and the sham that is this investigation:

Senate Standing Committee – Fisheries & Oceans
Fabian Manning (CPC), Chair
Elizabeth Hubley (Lib), Deputy Chair
Ethel M. Cochrane (CPC)
Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (Lib)
Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas (Lib)
Michael L. MacDonald (CPC)
Contact form:
Donald H. Oliver (CPC)
Dennis Glen Patterson (CPC)
Rose-May Poirier (CPC)
Vivienne Poy (Lib)
Nancy Greene Raine (CPC)
Charlie Watt (Lib)
Marjory LeBreton – Ex-officio (CPC)
Claude Carignan – Ex-officio (CPC)
James S. Cowan – Ex-officio (Lib)
Claudette Tardif – Ex-officio (Lib)

Valentine available for download on Coalition website

On this day of love – Valentines Day – I’m asking my readers and friends to take a moment to send a Valentine to Nova Scotia’s premier Darrell Dexter to urge him to show some love for besieged Nova Scotia grey seals.

Each year on islands around Nova Scotia, grey seal pups are mercilessly slaughtered with clubs, hakapiks and rifles. Even pups on Hay Island, a so-called Protected Wilderness Area, are not safe as sealers invade that island each February to beat and shoot to death defenceless pups aged just a few weeks old. Government and the fishing/sealing industry have scapegoated seals for the sluggish recovery of ground fish stocks – despite the presence of scientific studies suggesting grey seal predation is actually assisting in ground fish stock recovery – and a large-scale cull of grey seals has been called for over the past few years, including seals on iconic Sable Island, Canada’s newest national park located in Nova Scotia. Leading Canadian scientists are opposed to any culling of grey seals.

Valentine available for download on Coalition website

Please mark February 14th this year by sending a Valentine to Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter, urging him to show some love for Nova Scotia grey seals by protecting them instead of allowing them to be slaughtered. Simply follow the link below, right-click on one of the images on the page and save to your hard drive. Then insert or embed into the body of the email and address it to Thank you for speaking up for Nova Scotia grey seals!

Just when you think the ‘Ottawa Loves Baby Seal Killers’ Farce couldn’t get any more bizarre…it does.  The government does something else that makes rational Canadians groan in embarrassment and shake their heads.

“On February 2nd, 2012, all Members of Parliament in the House of Commons will have an opportunity to support Canada’s northern and coastal communities” proudly read the press release issued yesterday by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  “As a sign of support for the individuals who rely on the sustainable seal harvest in Canada, we are asking all Members of Parliament to show their support by wearing a seal fur lapel pin in the House of Commons on February 2nd, 2012.”

What, no seal meat?  No seal pâté on tiny pastry cups?  No seal ragout served in crystal bowls?  No bacon-wrapped seal loin with port reduction?  Not a terrine or rillette in sight.  Not even a sausage.  Just little fuzzy pins.  Apparently seal is off the menu again in Ottawa.  Maybe after privately hurling back up the seal meat they’d choked down for the cameras in 2009, MPs realized there are limits to which even they will go for sealers.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield playing the Inuit Card to blur the line between Inuit subsistence hunt and Atlantic commercial seal hunt.(Photo courtesy DFO)

This “Day of the Seal” or whatever nonsense they were calling it is clearly just another cringeworthy PR stunt put on by the Canadian government to show token support for the doomed commercial sealing industry.  And as per usual the government is playing the Inuit card, blurring the line between large-scale industrialized Atlantic commercial seal hunt and traditional Inuit subsistence hunt (that is, if you consider sitting in a truck listening to music waiting for the seal in the net to drown “traditional.”  BTW, the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association opposes drowning seals in nets as “drowning is considered to be a protracted and, therefore, inhumane form of death”), which are two separate issues.

The press release continued “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities.”

Arctic and northern communities?  Not so much.  The Inuit have nothing whatsoever to do with the commercial seal hunt.  They do not participate in the commercial seal hunt – theirs is a different hunt targeting a different species of seal.  The Inuit are exempt from the EU seal product trade ban which applies to commercial seal products, and the Nunavut government pays Inuit seal hunters an upfront, guaranteed price for seal skins under its Fur Pricing Program.

But the Inuit have allowed themselves to be drawn into this issue and whored-out pimped-out used by the Canadian government in a cynical attempt to fool or emotionally blackmail (hey, whichever works for them) Canadians into accepting the commercial seal hunt as a traditional subsistence hunt when it is most decidedly not.

HUMANE?? Photo R. Aldworth/HSI

These ploys are deeply offensive to the majority of Canadians, who are opposed to the annual slaughter and object to their tax dollars being used to defend and sustain it.

The press release stated, predictably: “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada’s rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.”

No, in actual fact, the commercial seal hunt is a marginal activity involving a tiny fraction of the population of Atlantic Canada.  It is an unsustainable pastime that brings in very little revenue, cannot survive without massive subsidies from Canadian taxpayers, and could easily be replaced with a number of viable alternatives.

Liberal Senator Mac Harb seemed to be the sole voice of reason in Ottawa today.  Senator Harb said, “The Conservative government is holding yet another photo op instead of being upfront about the end of the commercial seal hunt.  The government must tell sealers the truth. The market is dead.”

Senator Harb is quite correct.  The commercial sealing industry is dead.  It’s been dying a slow death for the past few years and it’s time to do the right thing and let it go.  It’s time the Canadian government admits this, stops wasting our tax dollars on embarrassing photo-ops, emotional rhetoric and futile WTO challenges, and moves ahead with a licence buyout which would be a long-lasting solution benefiting everyone, including commercial sealers, Canadian taxpayers and Canada’s international reputation.